Ken Early: James McClean continues to thrive on passion

West Brom player knows now he is good enough for the top level, he has proven it

Republic of Ireland goalscorer James McClean battles with Austria’s Marko Arnautovic at the Ernst-Happel Stadium, Vienna, Austria, during their World Cup Qualifying Group D encounter on Saturday night. Photograph: leonhard foeger/reuters

Republic of Ireland goalscorer James McClean battles with Austria’s Marko Arnautovic at the Ernst-Happel Stadium, Vienna, Austria, during their World Cup Qualifying Group D encounter on Saturday night. Photograph: leonhard foeger/reuters

It’s a reasonable bet that if you were to conduct a poll to discover which Republic of Ireland player was the current favourite of the Ireland fans, the winner would be James McClean.

The goal he scored to win the match against Austria was his best yet for his country. Actually, it was one of the best goals Ireland have scored in years – a clinical counter-attack that swept from end to end in the grand style of Real Madrid, with McClean playing the role of Cristiano Ronaldo.

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