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McAuley hoping he can play his part at Aviva after finally getting game time for Rangers

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Determined: Gareth McAuley

Determined: Gareth McAuley

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Determined: Gareth McAuley

Gareth McAuley is determined to see Northern Ireland return to winning ways against the Republic of Ireland and wants to play a part at the Aviva Stadium.

The Rangers defender has missed the last four internationals but is back in the fold for Thursday's derby in Dublin and the Nations League clash at home to Austria on Sunday.

At the weekend, having worked hard on his fitness after signing as a free agent in September, McAuley made his first Scottish Premiership appearance for his new club coming off the bench as Steven Gerrard's side hammered Motherwell 7-1 at Ibrox.

Now the 38-year old fan favourite wants more game time with his country.

"Hopefully on international duty I'll get some more minutes and then come back (to Rangers) and push for starts," said McAuley, who has won 79 caps.

"The Republic game will be big.

"We have had a couple before. One was behind closed doors with no real crowd around, so it will be a good game and fiercely contested.

"It is one we will be looking to win.

"We have had a spell recently internationally where we haven't picked up results that maybe performances deserved.

"We want to get back to winning, get the feel-good factor there and carry that on into the qualifiers for the Euros."

McAuley was delighted to play at home for the first time for his boyhood club after making his debut as a late substitute in last week's Europa League defeat to Spartak Moscow.

Having been released by West Brom in the summer, McAuley didn't have a proper pre-season which meant it took a lot of graft to be fully fit.

"I have enjoyed it and it has been hard work. In hindsight, I should have gone in somewhere and done pre-season properly, but I have done the hard work and I feel fit and ready to go," McAuley said.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the Motherwell game and the whole occasion.

"The (Remembrance) display before the game and how the game was going before getting on the pitch - it was very, very pleasing to get out there and to experience it.

"The focus was really on the three points, doing well and the performance.

"It was a good day and a good confidence-builder.

"The ruthlessness of it was pleasing, and hopefully I can kick on, compete and get more appearances."

Belfast Telegraph