Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Carroll message was big boost for Michael McGovern

By Stuart McKinley

Michael McGovern revealed that he received words of encouragement from his Northern Ireland goalkeeping rival Roy Carroll before being thrust into the limelight in one of the country's biggest matches for years.

And although the pair are close friends, now that McGovern has had a taste of the big time at international level he wants to push his fellow Fermanagh man all the way in the battle for the gloves.

It emerged on Friday afternoon that Carroll was out of Saturday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania at Windsor Park, with abdominal pain the problem reported by the Irish FA.

That forced manager Michael O'Neill to hand 30-year-old McGovern just his fourth international cap - and his first in a competitive fixture - so a message from his 41-times capped colleague was very welcome.

"Roy hadn't been around the hotel for a couple of days, but he sent me a message to say just do the same as I had done against Scotland," said McGovern, who had played in the recent friendlies against the Scots and Qatar.

"Roy has been brilliant. We get on really well. He's a fellow Fermanagh man and he looks out for me."

A well deserved clean sheet means that McGovern, whose first cap came against Chile back in 2010, can look back on his competitive debut with great pride.

The one key save he made from Claudiu Kesru in the second half came at a crucial time as Romania threatened to get on top.

Only a couple of late stops from his opposite number Ciprian Tatarusanu prevented it from being a perfect night for the Hamilton Academical man - and the Green and White Army, as they anticipate making a trip to France for the Euro finals this time next year.

"I didn't have too much to do and I was happy with what I did do," said McGovern.

"A lot of credit has to go to the boys in front of me, they were brilliant.

"It goes to show on reflection, their goalkeeper made a couple of really good saves, we've had a lot of near misses, so we probably should have won the game if you look at it like that."

After waiting patiently for almost five years between his first and second caps and clocking up a lot of miles during this campaign acting as back up, alongside Alan Mannus, McGovern hopes that he is now in pole position to step in when 37-year-old Carroll eventually calls time on his international career, but knows he will have to wait for a while.

"I like to think that I have taken my chance now that it's come," said McGovern.

"I felt that I played OK against Scotland and Qatar and I think I played OK against Romania.

"Opportunities for me have been few and far between, so when they come I feel like I need to take them and stake my claim.

"I'd love to play, but of course I understand the situation. Roy has been excellent for Michael since he came back in and I wouldn't be shouting from the rafters that I should be playing in the next game.

"He's not going to go on forever, but he has a few years left in him, so if I get a wee chance here and there before he retires hopefully when he does step down I will be in a good position to take over."

Belfast Telegraph