James McClean backs Ireland to ‘show up and perform’ against Ukraine

Boxing fanatic James McClean believes the Republic of Ireland’s plucky bantams can floor favourites Ukraine and cause a Nations League upset tonight.

In the neutral corner of Lodz, McClean will lead an under-strength Ireland into battle, as he wins his 94th cap.

‘I feel this team can achieve a lot and they are only going to get better with experience. They are showing ability and potential. I think the future is bright and exciting.

James McClean will lead an under-strength Ireland into battle, as he wins his 94th cap against Ukraine. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

‘We have to earn every win and show up and perform. We did that on Saturday.

‘Off the back of the Scotland game, the mood in the camp has been lifted massively.

‘The two games before that were not the results that we wanted. We went into this camp in confident mood fancying our chances in the two games.

James McClean with manager Stephen Kenny, left, during a Republic of Ireland press conference at LKS Stadium in Lodz, Poland. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

‘We were disappointed with the results but Scotland has been a massive lift. We are looking forward to this game and if we win we are on six points and right back up there in terms of winning the group.’

At 33, McClean is close to becoming Ireland’s seventh centurion and the first since John O’Shea in 2014.

McClean has spent the decade since he made his debut as a substitute against the Czech Republic in February 2012 as a regular under successive managers, but insists he cannot look too far ahead as he approaches the milestone.

Stephen Kenny looks on at James McClean during the UEFA Nations League B group 1 match between Republic of Ireland and Ukraine at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

‘I’ve been very lucky that for ten years I’ve been picked for every single squad I’ve been available for, which is something I’m very proud of.

‘The 100th cap? It’s seven games away and a lot can happen between now and then. Every cap is special. I feel fit and as hungry as ever. As long as that is the case, I will keep going.’

Of his passion for the sweet science, McClean said: ‘I’ve taken up boxing which I’ve enjoyed. Whatever pressures or frustrations I have, it’s a way for me to release all that.’

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