Belfast Telegraph

Niall McGinn insists Korea move can boost World Cup ambitions


By Steven Beacom

Niall McGinn has outlined his determination to continue playing for Northern Ireland and help the team qualify for next year's World Cup finals after signing for South Korean outfit Gwangju.

The 29-year-old says he is relishing a new challenge after leaving Aberdeen where he had become such a big favourite with the fans.

McGinn is ready to hit the ground running with Gwangju who are currently bottom of the K-League Classic after 17 matches of their 2017 season.

The former Celtic star, regularly watched by Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill when he was at Aberdeen, believes just because he has made a life-changing move to the Far East that his international chances should not be affected.

And he can point to Aaron Hughes, who played in Australia and India, as well as Kyle Lafferty, who had spells in Switzerland, Italy plus Turkey, and continued to be part of O'Neill's plans.

Asked if he thought that the switch to South Korea would have an impact on his Northern Ireland future, McGinn said: "I wouldn't think so. Other players have gone to other parts of the world to play and it has never adversely impacted upon their international careers."

The man who scored that iconic second goal in Northern Ireland's 2-0 Euro 2016 finals victory over Ukraine and forever one of the Kings of Lyon wants to add a World Cup to his CV and feels the next two Group C games against San Marino and the Czech Republic will be key in achieving that aim.

"Northern Ireland have a great chance," said the ex-Dungannon Swifts and Derry City winger.

"We need to win our next two games to put ourselves in the driving seat for second place and then after that if we have done well enough to finish second we are at the mercy of the draw."

In joining Gwangju, McGinn becomes the first Irish player to move to a Korean club. It came about thanks to his experienced agent Gerry Carlile and a connection from his Celtic days.

"Gerry's always making contacts with clubs and football related people and he told me somebody from Korea had shown an interest back in the January window but I wanted to see out my contract with Aberdeen and wait until the summer," explained McGinn.

"Thankfully the interest was still there and the club president came to Belfast for a few days and they made an offer. After that it was all completed quite quickly.

"I played with two Koreans at Celtic, Ki Sung-yeung and Cha Du-Ri. They used to speak about Korean football and Ki's father is actually the president of Gwangju so I know a fair bit about Korean football. It's a great opportunity for me. It is something completely new and I'm looking forward to pulling on the jersey and getting started."

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