Caolan Lavery revealed he has even more motivation to perform well during his loan spell at Portsmouth as he targets a late run to the European Championship.
The 23-year-old striker has made a promising start to his Fratton Park career after arriving on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, although he is still waiting on his first goal ahead of Saturday’s trip to Notts County.
But boss Paul Cook has tipped him to get better and better with some extra match sharpness.
And Lavery knows that a productive spell could yet propel him into the Northern Ireland squad for next summer’s Euros in France.
“It’s been a dream since I was a kid to play in a major tournament,” said Lavery.
“I’ve been called into the full Northern Ireland squad twice.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t made my debut yet.
“I was on the bench for the Romania and Hungary qualifying games in the summer, which was a great experience.
“So it’s definitely something I want to be a part of in the future.
“Of course, it’s a big motivation for me to get into the Northern Ireland squad for the Euros.
“But at the same time, it’s at the back of my mind.
“You have to focus on the things you can affect in the present and then the other things happen after that.”
Michael O’Neill’s side turned in a tremendous qualifying performance to top Group F and book their place in France to reach their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.
And Lavery – who was born in Canada but grew up in Derrymacash in County Armagh – believes it made the achievement more special because it was so unexpected before qualifying started.
He said: “Michael has done a brilliant job because Northern Ireland have not been great over the past few years and people laugh them off a bit.
“But Michael’s got his way of playing and really got everyone together.
“It was an honour to be a small part of it.
“I think it made it even more special because nobody really gave us much of a chance of qualifying.”
Although he could yet play international football for Canada, Lavery insists he is a Northern Irishman and believes he can force his way into the manager’s thoughts.
“The manager told me that I need to be playing games to give myself the best chance possible,” added Lavery.
“Things weren’t happening for me at Sheffield Wednesday, so as soon as I was able to leave on loan I wanted to get out and play games.
“I would still be eligible to play for Canada but it’s not something I am interested in.
“I played as a 15 or 16-year-old at under-17 level but I have been brought up as an Irish kid with an Irish family.
“Now I want to play as many games as I can to give myself the best possible chance.”