Warming the bench in big games and claiming the odd winners' medal in the process was becoming an unwelcome claim to fame for Enniskillen man Michael McGovern — but all that has now changed for the 24 year-old goalkeeper.
McGovern will tomorrow take his place between the sticks for Ross County against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final after his heroics helped the First Division outfit beat mighty Celtic 2-0 in the semi-final.
Later this month he will earn his first Northern Ireland cap in the short American tour — with matches lined up against Turkey and Chile — after being named in Nigel Worthington's squad earlier this week.
Patience is a virtue as they say and McGovern's has certainly been rewarded.
He joined Celtic directly from Enniskillen Town as a teenager but failed to make a first team appearance though he collected two Scottish Cup winners' medals during his time at Parkhead. He was on the bench during the Bhoys' 2004 and 2007 triumphs and it was a similar scenario when Celtic played Barcelona in the UEFA Cup at the Nou Camp when he was just 19.
Northern Ireland manager Worthington revealed that McGovern will win his first cap during the trip to America and paid tribute to a brave decision from the keeper.
“Michael is there on merit and he has had a very good season for Ross County,” he explained.
“I have consistently said that players ideally need to to be playing first team football to play for us and Michael is a case in point.
“He decided to move from Celtic to get that and now he has the opportunity to prove what he can do on the trip.”
McGovern admits it was a difficult decision to move from Parkhead but with hindsight it was a good call.
“I was a Celtic supporter and still am and it was memorable to have been on the bench for the Scottish Cup finals and I cherish the medals,” he explained.
“But I don't want to be remembered for being on the bench and now I've got the opportunity to put that right.
“It was the same when I was number two goalkeeper against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the UEFA Cup. That was a fantastic experience to be part of such an occasion in front of a huge crowd at one of the most famous clubs in the world.
“People seem to associate me with my appearances on the bench as opposed to on the pitch but I'm glad I've now got first team football.
“I could have stayed at Celtic after they offered me a new contract but, with hindsight, I have made the right decision,” said McGovern, who had a spell with tomorrow’s opponents Dundee United after leaving the Hoops.
McGovern has now shaken off the ‘nearly man' tag as he looks forward to both the Scottish Cup final and his first full cap for Northern Ireland.
“I intend to make the most of the opportunity in America and grasp it with both hands,” he added. “It's always been my ambition to play for Northern Ireland after 10 appearances with the under 21s so I am delighted to have been handed the chance.
“But my main focus now has to be the Cup final and it's without doubt going to be the biggest day of my career so far.
“It's going to be a shop-window for all of us and you never know who'll be watching.
“We were confident we could beat Celtic but we needed them to have an off-day and for us to play above ourselves and that's how it turned out.
“It'll be exactly the same against Dundee United.”