AGAINST his own history-making backdrop, Niall McGinn is making a statement about his career as Northern Ireland drew 1-1 with Portugal in Porto
Not only celebrating his first international goal after netting against Portugal, the Aberdeen winger is keen to soon discover his peak, and he’s certainly on the right track.
The 25-year old, who ruined Cristiano Ronaldo’s big night of hitting 100 caps, has fully recovered from an ankle injury and re-discovered his match fitness after periods on the bench for Celtic and a mixed loan spell at Brentford.
“It is just an unbelievable feeling to score against Portugal, as well as it being my first international goal, so I am just over the moon,” he said.
“Quite honestly, I have been playing with a smile on my face. I’ve obviously come back from the injury problems I’ve had, have scored three in three with my club and now to come here and score my first international goal is just fantastic.”
The Donaghmore man, who admits growing up in a small County Tyrone village has kept him grounded, credits his perseverance with simply enjoying his football.
“I have been working really hard though and I am enjoying life at the minute, so long may that continue,” he added.
“Definitely, moments like this are a way of paying off for all the hard work behind the scenes so to come out here and score against one of the world’s best teams is great.
“Obviously at club level there is competition and internationals have their own pressure but I am always happy to be part of the team and very grateful for whenever I can be picked.”
McGinn has endured periods of inactivity with the Northern Ireland squad, often called up as part of the 23-man team but still holding just 19 caps since his debut against Hungary in November 2008.
Nevertheless, he expresses a great sense of feeling settled and truly at home among Michael O’Neill’s men and the supporters.
“It is great to see the fans turn up in their numbers and they really do show up for every campaign,” he said.
“Obviously the team have to take a lot of credit, especially defensively, but from Roy Carroll right through to Kyle Lafferty they showed their quality and I thought they were brilliant.
“I thought we played really good football. We should be very happy to have achieved such a result against Portugal but in saying that, we probably are a bit disappointed to not have won.”