Irish League has huge potential says Northern Ireland ace Niall McGinn

Northern Ireland's Niall McGinnNorthern Ireland's Niall McGinn
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn
Niall McGinn believes the Irish League has huge potential in terms of unearthing the next generation of international footballers.

The Northern Ireland winger was delighted to see Michael O’Neill’s troops maintain their perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying with a 2-1 comeback victory over Estonia in Tallin on Saturday night.

And with three former Irish League forwards, Liam Boyce (Cliftonville), Stuart Dallas (Crusaders) and Gavin Whyte (Crusaders), leading a three-pronged attack for the Green and White Army and Mark Sykes (Glenavon) on the bench, McGinn believes it’s a sign of green shoots for the domestic game.

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And the Aberdeen star reckons, with a bit more help from the governing body, that conveyor belt of talent can be greatly enhanced.

Indeed, McGinn believes the domestic league is the perfect platform for eventual international recognition.

“It just shows you, if you look at the squad now, you have myself and last night you had Stuart Dallas, Liam Boyce and Gavin Whyte all playing in the front three,” he pointed out.

“It just shows you there is talent there and it’s about the wee bit of luck the guys need along the way.

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“It’s worth getting more scouts to come watch the Irish League. There is definitely talent there. It’s just about the boys getting a break and the luck that you need.”

McGinn admits he received that little slice of fortune himself when former Derry City manager and future Republic of Ireland senior international manager, Stephen Kenny plucked him from relative obscurity while playing for Dungannon Swifts in the Irish League.

He claims he owes a great deal of gratitude to the Ireland U21 boss for giving him a shot at full-time football in 2008 which swiftly led to a life-changing move to Scottish Premier League giants, Celtic.

“Even for the likes of myself, I was playing for Dungannon Swifts and Stephen Kenny happened to be there watching a game one night when I happened to impress and do well. He was on the phone and wanted me to sign for Derry City and obviously the rest is history.

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“So you just need that wee break along the way but there’s huge potential in both the northern league and the southern league as well where players go across the Channel constantly. So it’s good to see.”

And McGinn is looking forward to be involved in Aberdeen’s opening Europa League clash this summer.

“I’m looking forward to the European draw when it comes around as well so there’s another exciting season ahead.

“I’m hoping I get back (for the first round qualifier) but it’s a long season ahead so I don’t want to rush things.

“We got a tough draw last season playing Burnley and it was a great experience going down there to play a Premier League team.

Hopefully we get a nice draw to start because we know how tough it is.”