Belfast Telegraph

McGinn happy to cap a great year with 50th Northern Ireland appearance

By Laure James

Finishing an outstanding year on a flat note has left most Northern Ireland players focused on resuming World Cup qualifiers in March.

Niall McGinn, however, who earned his 50th cap in the 3-0 defeat to Croatia, has said it's a night he'll never forget.

"First of all, personally, I'm obviously delighted to have reached 50 caps, and to captain the side was a good milestone for myself as I don't think I've ever been captain before, so I am over the moon because of that," McGinn said.

"I think it's just been routine since I got in the door that any player which reaches 50 caps gets the armband, so that night was my turn and I was thankful that I got the opportunity."

The Aberdeen winger recently confessed how, back in his Derry City days, he never thought he would sign a professional contract. Now, with a half-century of caps to his name, McGinn is looking ahead with the aim to secure a place at the Russia World Cup, after Northern Ireland's 4-0 rout of Azerbaijan on Friday night, lifting them to second in Group C.

The prospect of repeating moments like their 2-0 win over Ukraine in Euro 2016, is a huge carrot.

"I still get asked how I felt in Lyon and my answer hasn't changed, it is still the best moment of my life in what was the best year of my life on the international stage," McGinn said.

"They're moments you never forget but who knows what's around the corner. We could qualify for the World Cup, and hopefully another moment like that will come along but it would be very hard to top.

"I think the most important thing was winning on Friday night, gaining momentum on what has been an incredible year for Northern Ireland, an incredible two years really.

"There's no reason why we can't qualify. I think the spirit in the squad is obviously high and the players are playing well, and the momentum is still there."

Belfast Telegraph

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