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Northern Ireland striker Josh Magennis: Criticism fuels me to improve

Published 09/10/2015

Josh Magennis was on target against Greece
Josh Magennis was on target against Greece

Josh Magennis has revealed being written off as a "laughing stock" helped push him to become a Northern Ireland history-maker.

The Kilmarnock forward scored his first international goal in Thursday's 3-1 win over Greece, a result that guaranteed the Green and White Army's first ever European Championship appearance next summer.

While it was a massive moment for the entire country, it was also a matter of enormous personal pride for the boy from Bangor.

Much has been made of his unlikely transition from youth goalkeeper at Cardiff to Northern Ireland striker, possibly rather too much for his own liking.

It is a compelling story, and a triumph of determination, but Magennis clearly felt his contribution at Windsor Park went a long way to starting a new chapter.

"I think it is time to stop talking about my past as a goalkeeper," said the 25-year-old.

"Anyone who wants a story will always pick up on it. I was a laughing stock for a few people, I know that.

"People said I wouldn't amount to anything and my career wouldn't amount to anything but instead of going into my shell, I use it as fuel.

"I can't control what people say. I could read it and crumble but that's not the person I am.

"I fuel off people telling me I can't do something and I always want to be better."

While Magennis has endured his share of doubters, he has a robust supporter in Michael O'Neill.

He has frequently been used as Kyle Lafferty's under-study in the current campaign, and when the Norwich man was suspended for the Greece fixture O'Neill had no qualms about turning to Magennis.

"To start a qualifier in one of the most important games we'll have was amazing. I would run through brick walls for that man," said Magennis, who celebrated his goal by sprinting to the dugout and consuming O'Neill in a bear hug.

"The majority of players would say that too; his man management is probably the best I've known and he gets everything out of us.

"You don't want to be anything but successful for him because he has shown complete trust in us."

Another player O'Neill welcomed into the fold with open arms was Roy Carroll, the veteran keeper who had fallen out of favour under Nigel Worthington.

He played 15 consecutive qualifiers until illness saw him lose the gloves to Michael McGovern this summer and, at the age of 38, is relishing a late chance of tournament football.

Carroll knows how precious that is having watched the great Pat Jennings on duty in the 1986 World Cup and looked on as his one-time Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs was denied the same opportunity with Wales.

"This is one of the highest points of my career, hopefully getting on that plane next summer," he said.

"A lot of people before me hoped to go to big tournaments, Ryan Giggs wanted to go for Wales and he never achieved it.

"I was nine in '86 and all I remember was big Pat Jennings, because I always looked up to him as a keeper and as a person.

"I want to be walking down the street and people say 'there's Roy Carroll, he got the team into Euro 2016'. It's fantastic and that's what you want when you retire.

"That's why I keep looking at Pat Jennings and say what a legend he is, and what a keeper."

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