Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Internationals always on the menu for Niall McGinn

Northern Ireland and Aberbeen player, Niall McGinn takes a break from training for the forthcoming World Cup qualifier against Russia to enjoy a meal at 26 West, a new restaurant in Belfast that he co-owns

With all the talk about a youngster like Liverpool's Ryan McLaughlin preferring to focus on club rather than country and the continuing scenario where players born here opt to play for the Republic of Ireland, it's refreshing to hear Niall McGinn say his career has 'benefited massively' by playing for Northern Ireland.

In many ways McGinn is a standard bearer for the Irish FA and manager Michael O'Neill.

O'Neill is working diligently behind the scenes to try and coax gifted young Catholic players to choose north over south, but while he has had some success others have taken advantage of Fifa rules throwing their lot in with the Republic.

McGinn, formerly with Derry City and Celtic and with a background in gaelic football, would no doubt have been in the Republic's sights had he been starting out now.

But he takes pride in the fact he has earned 22 caps for Northern Ireland, scored against mighty Portugal, is an established international and his club career goes from strength to strength.

His is a story of not what might have been for those who declare for the Republic and rarely play at international level, but one of someone who has made a success of his time with Northern Ireland.

Ahead of tomorrow's World Cup qualifier at home to Russia, the Aberdeen sharpshooter, who scored two penalties in a 3-1 victory over Motherwell on Sunday, said: "Playing for Northern Ireland has benefited me massively career wise.

"Playing in international matches is brilliant because you are getting your name on the map and you are playing against the best players in the world.

"I've more than enjoyed being in the Northern Ireland squad and long may it continue.

"Everyone makes their own decision and it is down to them what they do, but for me personally I've loved my time here and I just want to keep doing it.

"It's always nice to meet up with the squad again on Northern Ireland duty and it's good to train with players who are regulars in the Premier League because you can learn so much from them."

McGinn, 26, was injured for the 2-0 defeat in Russia at the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign but hopes to be involved this time around.

And having scored twice from the spot at the weekend, perhaps O'Neill should put him on penalty duty.

"This is a massive game and then we have another at home to Portugal next month. We'll go into both games as underdogs but we have to think about creating an upset," he said.

On the pitch, McGinn has had a glorious year scoring for fun with Aberdeen.

Off the pitch his life is flourishing too. Along with canny agent Gerry Carlile they have opened up a second restaurant in Belfast called 26 West in the Kennedy Centre.

McGinn says: "The new restaurant opened on Saturday. Our first one Failte has been a great success and hopefully this one will go in the same direction.

"My agent is the main man behind it. He does most of the work and is very hands on and I'm just the silent business partner.

"It's something different to keep me involved in outside of football and I'm really pleased to be part of it."

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