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O'Neill lining up McGeady as Hoilett heads to Germany
SUNDERLAND are ready to step up their interest in former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady after learning one of their top attacking targets has edged closer to a move to Germany.
Junior Hoilett, the Blackburn winger due to become a free agent, had been earmarked by Martin O'Neill to potentially come in on the cheap ahead of next season.
But the Canadian has been lured by the prospect of moving to Germany, where he has previously had spells with Paderborn and St Pauli, while his brother also plays in the lower leagues of German football.
Hoilett has indicated to Borussia Moenchengladbach that he has opted for them ahead of staying in the Premier League following Rovers' relegation from the top-flight.
And with O'Neill – also interested in former Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor and Wolves' Steven Fletcher - keen to add a couple of different forward options to his squad ahead of the start of the season, McGeady represents an alternative he knows all about.
Sources close to the player have suggested he is well aware of Sunderland's interest and that he is interested in discussing a move to Wearside.
McGeady, currently preparing with the Republic of Ireland squad ahead of Euro 2012, still has two years to run on the contract he signed with Spartak Moscow following a £9.5m switch from Celtic.
Spartak are hoping to receive somewhere near to that figure, although the Black Cats are hoping to do a deal for much less.
It was at Celtic where O'Neill realised the extent of the quality the 26-year-old possessed and he thinks the Irishman would add something different to the Sunderland team.
Despite having James McClean and Seb Larsson – two other players involved at Euro 2012 – O'Neill is keen to add another wide-man. McGeady, left-footed, can play on either flank.
O'Neill is not expecting any of Sunderland's transfer deals to be concluded until the finals in the Ukraine and Poland are over. He will, though, be keeping an eye on players involved, even if he already has his main targets in mind.
McClean is likely to start the tournament on the bench as Giovanni Trapattoni, the Ireland boss, has hinted he will start with McGeady and Damien Duff as his two wide players.
But the mere fact McClean has opted to represent southern Ireland has caused a stir across the Irish Sea.
The 22-year-old Catholic, who represented Northern Ireland through the ranks before accepting the switch to the Republic, claimed he never felt comfortable playing for Northern.
And former Newcastle winger Keith Gillespie, a former Northern Ireland international, is the latest to have criticised McClean for his actions.
“I’m of the firm belief that if you’re born in Northern Ireland you should not have the option of playing for the Republic,” he said. “James McClean is a prime example.
“He had no intention of ever playing for the Northern Ireland senior team and he’s made that clear — but he used the Northern Ireland system to get into a position where he could defect to the Republic.
“He made some excuses in relation to being a Catholic, but that’s not an issue with the Northern Ireland squad. You look at some of our greatest and most capped players who are Catholic — people like Pat Jennings, Mal Donaghy, Martin O’Neill and Gerry Armstrong. They are all hugely popular people in Northern Ireland.”
Gillespie added: “I think McClean was clutching at straws with those remarks and trying to come up with some sort of excuse.”