Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has promised James McClean he has an international future despite missing out on a first senior call-up today.
The 22-year-old Sunderland winger was tipped to be included in the Italian's squad for the friendly clash with the Czech Republic in Dublin on February 29 today.
But when the 24-man party was announced, the Derry-born midfielder's name was conspicuous by its absence with Trapattoni sticking to his tried and tested men as preparations for the Euro 2012 finals begin in earnest.
However, Trapattoni said: "I think all the squad deserve to come with us. They believe us and they know us.
"We have four or five other names because we have no time to change. One is McClean.
"I spoke with him and I said: 'Congratulations, James, I wish you to come with us'. We now have insurance that he can play with us, and this is important.
"He said: 'When you decide, call me up'. I told him 100% he will be with us for the future. Now, I'm looking to consolidate."
McClean's omission suggests he has little hope of making the squad for the finals, although his disappointment will be eased by the knowledge that he is firmly in Trapattoni's long-term sights.
The midfielder, who was born in the North, but has opted to represent the Republic, received clearance from FIFA to do so earlier this week.
He has been watched by the Ireland camp on several occasions this season, and most recently on Wednesday evening when Trapattoni's assistant, Marco Tardelli, was at the Riverside Stadium for the Black Cats' 2-1 FA Cup fourth-round replay victory over Middlesbrough.
McClean did not enjoy one of his more productive nights on Teesside, but was widely expected to get the nod to join up with club-mates Keiren Westwood and John O'Shea later this month.
His rise on Wearside has been a revelation - he arrived during the summer in a £350,000 switch from Derry City under Steve Bruce, but did not make his senior debut until he came on as a substitute in O'Neill's first game in charge against Blackburn on December 11.
However, Trapattoni had indicated in the wake of his side's play-off victory over Estonia which secured their passage to the finals that he would rely on the men who had got them there, and he appears to be sticking to his blueprint.
He said today: "This game is the beginning of our Euro 2012 preparations.
"As we face this fixture, it is important for our players to remember the attitude and performance that brought us qualification.
"The Czech Republic are a strong team, and their system is similar to Croatia and Spain.
"This game is vital in helping us choose our 23-player squad for May. We will continue to monitor our players afterwards, and keep a close eye on their fitness in the coming months."
There are no uncapped players among Trapattoni's selections, and while strikers Kevin Doyle and Shane Long have struggled for regular starts with Wolves and West Brom respectively in recent weeks, Darron Gibson's switch from Manchester United to Everton has boosted his chances of being involved once again.
However, there was no place for either defender Paul McShane, currently on loan at Crystal Palace from Hull, or Portsmouth midfielder Liam Lawrence.
The Republic will complete their preparations with games against Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Aviva Stadium on May 27 and Hungary in Budapest on June 4 either side of their Italian training camp.
They will launch their Group C campaign against Croatia in Poznan on June 10 before tough clashes with reigning World and European champions Spain in Gdansk four days later and Italy back in Poznan on June 18.
Squad: Shay Given (Aston Villa), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall); John O'Shea (Sunderland), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Stephen Ward (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Sean St Ledger (Leicester), Darren O'Dea (Leeds), Kevin Foley (Wolves); Glenn Whelan (Stoke), James McCarthy (Wigan), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Keith Andrews (West Brom), Keith Fahey (Birmingham), Darron Gibson (Everton) Damien Duff (Fulham), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Stephen Hunt (Wolves); Robbie Keane (Aston Villa), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Shane Long, Simon Cox (both West Brom), Jon Walters (Stoke).