REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has warned James McClean and fellow young gun Shane Duffy that the door to the European Championship finals this summer is virtually closed.
But Irish icon Robbie Keane says McClean has caught his eye and Chelsea goalkeeping giant Petr Cech – who McClean will face in tonight’s friendly at the Aviva Stadium – is fully aware of the potential danger presented by Sunderland’s newest star.
Keane insisted: “The squad has not been picked yet so everyone has a chance. Look at McClean who has come in and done exceptionally well, considering where he has come from.
“He has come from the League of Ireland to the best league in the world and stamped his authority on it and done ever so well. Shane Duffy at Everton has played a few games too.
“So it is up to the manager to keep an eye on players over the next three months, and see how well they do.
“The incentive is there for players to play as well as they can, and then the manager has some tough decisions.
“And then for the future it is important for Ireland to have young players coming through because the senior players cannot go as long as we would like.”
Cech, meanwhile, knows of the threat posed by McClean if the Black Cats’ winger is at his best, but says you can’t worry about any individual player at the highest level.
He said: “You can’t be afraid of anyone you’re playing against because in European football, international level or Premier League, you will always come across great players.
“That is why they are selected for their teams. We know obviously that he was selected because he is a very good player, and Mr Trapattoni thinks he will be helping the team to win tonight.
“We have to be careful with that.
“But in every squad at international level, players have that quality.”
Trapattoni has reluctantly welcomed McClean and Duffy into the squad after pressure grew for their involvement.
However, he has warned he will remain loyal to the players who took Ireland to their first finals in a decade when he names his squad at the end of the season.
Only injuries will prevent him from naming Wolves’ pair Stephen Hunt and Kevin Foley, who have barely featured at Molineux this season.
And while Trapatoni acknowledges the likes of McClean and Duffy will be part of the side’s future campaigns, he points out the likelihood is they will have to watch the Republic’s finals games against Croatia, Italy and Spain from home.