James McClean: 'I’ve never had a penalty before so to hit my first one was a bit of pressure'

By Ger McCarthy

James McClean was happy to step in and take the Republic of Ireland’s second penalty against Slovakia, despite not having taken one before.

McClean was typically forthright when asked about taking the penalty instead of Shane Long, who had converted from the spot three minutes before.

“I think Shane got a kick on the leg and wasn’t able to take the second one,” admitted the West Bromwich Albion midfielder.

James McClean with his daughter Allie-Mae, age 2, at the end of the game. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

“I’ve never had a penalty before so to hit my first one was a bit of pressure alright but luckily it has gone in under the goalkeeper.

“Tonight, I think we had more of the ball than we did against Switzerland although we were hit by a sucker punch just before half time. I thought we were comfortable up until that stage but there are no easy matches at international level anymore. No one will fancy playing us either though.”

James McClean squares up to Martin Skrtel during the second half. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

McClean was one of Ireland’s standout performers and impressed in his unaccustomed role playing upfront alongside Long.

“I did enjoy it (playing up front) as I played there last season for Wigan,” commented McClean.

“Tonight, I played up front as a two with Longy who is a great player and will run all day for you. It was nice to play alongside him and I think we caused them a lot of problems.

“We have a bigger pool of players to choose from now more than ever so everyone wants to make that final 23 and I’m no different. Hopefully, I have shown what I can do and will be selected.”

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