ON the day one Republic of Ireland international left Sunderland, another Black Cats player joined their ranks.
James McClean was belatedly called up by Giovanni Trapattoni hours after former player, manager and chairman Niall Quinn left his boardroom post.
He did so with Martin O’Neill hailing him as a club “icon”.
McClean was controversially left out of the Republic’s initial squad for next week’s friendly at home to the Czech Republic.
Yesterday, the 22-year-old was called up along with Derby County midfielder Paul Green.
He tweeted he was “absolutely buzzin(g) and honoured to be called up to represent my country . . . best feeling there is”.
McClean’s initial exclusion was surprising because he has been in such outstanding form since Black Cats boss O’Neill promoted him to the first team.
The former Northern Ireland captain watched McClean play for the second string in his first days as manager on Wearside.
He was on the bench for O’Neill’s opening game, against Blackburn Rovers in December, and made an instant impact.
Signed from Derry City last summer for £350,000, the winger had been on the bench eight times under Steve Bruce without leaving it. He has been involved in all but one of O’Neill’s matches.
McClean has scored four times, and created or scored goals in seven of the club’s last eight league games.
His selection has been no less controversial than the decision to originally overlook him, however.
McClean is the latest Northern Ireland-born player to use the Good Friday Agreement to switch allegiance to the Republic.
He is from Londonderry – close to the border with the Republic, with a largely Catholic population.
Derry play in the Republic’s League of Ireland – and his selection met with unpleasant abuse via the social networking site Twitter.