Belfast Telegraph

Liam Donnelly out to earn a place in Northern Ireland team to face Germany

On a mission: Liam Donnelly
On a mission: Liam Donnelly
Talking to the media

By Graham Luney

He's Northern Ireland's goalscoring machine and he'd love a shot at Germany.

A new midfield role has helped Motherwell's Liam Donnelly spring to life this season and eight goals in eight games is a record any striker would be proud of.

It's been a long road back to the senior international stage for the 23-year-old, who first appeared for the Under-21s at the age of 16 against England in 2012, but it was a destination he always felt was within his reach.

All the former Fulham and Hartlepool youngster needed was a manager like 'Well's Stephen Robinson to believe in him and give him an opportunity to deliver.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill was at Fir Park to watch Donnelly score twice against Celtic last month and now he's hoping the man who moved to Fulham from Dungannon Swifts in 2014 has brought his shooting boots to Windsor.

Donnelly's only senior international outing was a late substitute appearance against Chile on June 5, 2014.

But now the door has sprung open again with a likely appearance against Luxembourg at Windsor Park tomorrow and an opportunity to catch the eye ahead of Germany's visit in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday.

With Oliver Norwood quitting international football, O'Neill will need to take a fresh look at his midfield options.

"I just have to make sure I keep playing well with my club, because if I can do that, I will get international recognition," said Donnelly, who made just 11 appearances in his first campaign with Motherwell before thriving in a central role this season.

"There are a lot of good players competing for the same position so it will be difficult to get into the team.

"I just have to work hard and try to impress. If the opportunity comes my way I'm determined to grab it with both hands. I'm looking forward to that challenge.

"I've moved forward into the midfield position and when you are further forward you can take advantage of a few opportunities. Thankfully I've been able to do that.

"I've been in the position where I am going into games feeling confident I will score, the danger is I will start putting pressure on myself.

"If I go a few games without scoring now it will be seen as a drought.

"I'm buzzing, and the goals are an added bonus, though I'm more focused on performance. It's always nice to get a few goals.

"Robbo (Stephen Robinson) is a big part of my success and the reason why I signed for the club, he's given me a platform to showcase myself.

"I'll focus on getting into the Northern Ireland team, rather than scoring against Germany.

"Hopefully there's a chance against Luxembourg and I'm sure all the players will be looking to stake a claim for that game."

Northern Ireland are top of Group C after taking maximum points from their opening four games, with Germany three points behind and boasting a game in hand.

With Norwood leaving the international stage, and injuries to Michael Smith and Jordan Jones, O'Neill will be anxious to avoid further bad news against Luxembourg.

Striker Liam Boyce, who scored a hat-trick for Burton Albion last week, remains part of O'Neill's panel despite being an injury concern after he was substituted 18 minutes from the end of the Brewers' 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

Donnelly, his country's record appearance holder at Under-21 level, added: "Confidence is massively high after the boys got the four results they wanted from the opening qualifiers.

"With all due respect, the next few games will be more difficult, but I don't see why we should have any fear.

"The lads are capable of getting a result against the Germans.

"We haven't looked too much at Germany yet but that will come.

"All their players stand out, we know the standards they set and the levels they are at, but we have good players too and we will focus on ourselves while showing no fear.

"Their squad has changed a little but their players are still playing for big clubs and it will be difficult no matter who is on the pitch."

The former Swifts youngster has also been impressed by Shayne Lavery's form for Linfield.

"I've been following all the Irish League action and Linfield were unlucky not to get to the group stages of the Europa League," added Donnelly, whose latest goal helped earn Motherwell a 3-0 win over Hibernian at Fir Park at the weekend.

"I know Shayne has been flying and he thoroughly deserves the call-up. Like myself, he's hungry to impress at this level."

O'Neill's men, who won all four of their opening qualifying matches home and away to Estonia and Belarus, will be keeping a close eye on the Germany v Netherlands clash on Friday night, with the third-placed Dutch playing catch-up in the group.

Belfast Telegraph


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