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Ireland's McLean keen to exorcise 2012 demons in France

Football Soccer - Republic of Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly - Turner's Cross, Cork, Republic of Ireland - 31/5/16 Republic of Ireland's James McClean in action Action Images via Reuters / Clodagh Kilcoyne Livepic
Football Soccer - Republic of Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly - Turner's Cross, Cork, Republic of Ireland - 31/5/16Republic of Ireland's James McClean in actionAction Images via Reuters / Clodagh KilcoyneLivepic

(Reuters) - Midfielder James McClean hopes he can cast aside his bitter memories of the Euro 2012 campaign and play a key role for Ireland in this month's European Championship in France.

The West Bromwich Albion player made a single substitute appearance during Ireland's ill-fated previous tournament in Poland and Ukraine, where they lost all three group matches.

"I went to the last European Championship with Ireland but it was a mixed time for me and for the team," McClean, who has scored five goals in 38 appearances for Ireland, told his club's website (www.wba.co.uk).

"This time, I feel much more like a part of the squad, I feel like an established international now... I'm hoping I can go and have a good tournament and get rid of some of the demons from the last one."

Manager Martin O'Neill's side kick off their Group E campaign against Sweden in Paris on Monday before facing Italy and Belgium.

Despite being the underdogs of their group, McClean remains optimistic about Ireland's chances of advancing to the knockout stages.

"Belgium, Italy and Sweden are all big names but I don't think they'll be looking forward to playing us either. But it's three games, all one-offs in their way, and a lot of things can happen," the 27-year-old added.

"Hopefully, we'll be smiling come the end of the group and we can make it into the knock-out stages."

(Reporting by Ian Rodricks in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)

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