Belfast Telegraph

They labelled me a laughing stock, but who's smiling now?

By Steven Beacom

Josh Magennis believes he is having the last laugh...or maybe that should be the finals laugh.

After all, the 25-year-old is on his way to the Euro 2016 finals having played a major part on Thursday night to get Northern Ireland there.

Replacing the suspended Kyle Lafferty in attack, the Kilmarnock striker netted his first international goal and his side's second in the 3-1 victory over Greece at Windsor Park that ensured a place back in the big time next year after three decades of waiting.

Before the match, Magennis made plenty of headlines with his back story - which was going from a teenage goalkeeper with Cardiff to a big bustling forward following encouragement from Neil Ardley, Academy coach of the Bluebirds.

He didn't feel at the time everyone gave him the support he needed with the switch, but is delighted that on Thursday he got his happy ending.

"I think it is time to stop talking about my past as a goalkeeper. Anyone who wants a story will always pick up on it," said Magennis.

"Seven years ago I was a goalkeeper and made the transition. I was a laughing stock for a few people I know, but fair play to Cardiff and Neil Ardley and Paul Wilkinson; they saw something in my they thought they could work with.

"People can easily have a go, but the fundamentals of what I do haven't changed. I work hard. Yes, my technique can be worked on, but you have to have that burning desire to be a better person and I have always had that.

"I always try to do my best and hopefully I shut a lot of people up on Thursday night.

"People said I wouldn't amount to anything and my career wouldn't amount to anything and that I was a laughing stock, 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 me."

Magennis praised the role boss Michael O'Neill has played in his development.

"When you have an international manager who has faith in you and beds you into the side after being on the fringes of the under-21s that gives you hope," stated the Bangor man.

"I maybe wasn't getting on, and then I was getting on for the last five minutes or so and then that went to the last 20 minutes.

"To start a qualifier in one of the most important games we'll have was amazing and I would run through brick walls for that man (O'Neill).

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

"People talk about Laffs (Kyle Lafferty), but there are others who he has helped to get to where we want to be.

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

Against the Greeks, Magennis was a constant thorn in the opposition's side with his never say die attitude.

"I feel I did well against two centre-backs who play for Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, to go toe-to-toe with them and say I have matched them and scored a goal is unbelievable," he said.

"It is still early in my development as a striker. It is great for confidence, but there is no point in me getting carried away. I don't think I'm a world beater and I won't be shouting about what I can do. I will stay grounded and the people around me will make sure I do.

"Thursday was a good night, but I want to keep learning and developing to see where I can go."

Magennis admitted that he sees the other goalscorer against the Greeks, Steven Davis, as the kingpin of the team.

"Without him we don't tick. He's absolutely unbelievable. Davo helps me out a lot in games and talks me through it. I will be forever indebted to this team and people like Davo for teaching me and I will cherish this forever.

"I'm still in awe of a couple of the people I play with and I try to learn from them to improve."

Belfast Telegraph