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Long is impressed by McClean

Updated: Friday, 02 Mar 2012 23:49

Shane Long is excited by the prospect of playing alongside James McClean
Shane Long is excited by the prospect of playing alongside James McClean

Striker Shane Long is backing the Republic of Ireland's wingers to give manager Giovanni Trapattoni a major selection headache ahead of the Euro 2012 finals.

Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady are fixtures in the 72-year-old Italian's starting line-up, with the likes of Stephen Hunt and Liam Lawrence having provided solid back-up in the recent past.

However, the emergence of Sunderland's James McClean as a genuine contender to rival Trapattoni's big guns has left Long and his fellow frontmen drooling.

The West Brom striker said: "It's brilliant. They are obviously top-quality players, and seeing him with my own eyes this week in training, James, he can deliver a ball from anywhere.

"You know when he gets it, you just have to make a run and he will find you.

"We have different options on the wings and it's a problem for the manager coming up to the Euros."

McClean, 22, was handed his senior international debut in last night's 1-1 friendly draw with the Czech Republic having already made an impression with his new team-mates on the training pitch at Malahide during the days leading up to the game.

The Derry-born player, who opted to represent the Republic rather than Northern Ireland, received a warm welcome from a crowd of 37,741 at the Aviva Stadium when he was introduced as a late replacement for McGeady.

Long said: "It was brilliant. He's flying at Sunderland at the moment, and for him to pledge his allegiance to Ireland obviously means a lot to the Irish fans.

"It's nice to give him that confidence going through. He's a great player and hopefully he continues the way he is playing for the rest of the season."

On the night, Ireland emerged with a draw after being second best for long periods as Long's club-mate Simon Cox came off the bench to cancel out Milan Baros' opener with just four minutes remaining.

Trapattoni, with one eye firmly on the finals - in which his side will face Croatia, Spain and Italy in Group C - started with his strongest available team and asked skipper Robbie Keane to play a slightly withdrawn role behind lone striker Long.

In the event, his players were served with a timely reminder of how tough a task they could face in Poland and Ukraine by their fellow qualifiers.

Long said: "They are obviously a good side. They have a few big players in their team and they were going to be a good test for us.

"They play with five in midfield and we need to be able to play against that with the teams we have in our group, so it's a good learning curve for us and a good test before we go to the Euros."