Belfast Telegraph

Paddy McCourt determined to fight his way into Michael O'Neill's plans

By Steven Beacom

Paddy McCourt is out to impress TWO former Northern Ireland midfielders.

This week it's Michael O'Neill in the Cypriot capital Nicosia and when he returns to England it will be Barnsley boss Danny Wilson.

McCourt is back in the international squad after a spell on the sidelines.

Ironically he returns at a time when he is kicking his heels as a substitute under Wilson at the Championship strugglers.

The Londonderry man netted some stunning goals earlier in the campaign for the Oakwell outfit with David Flitcroft in charge, but since old Windsor Park favourite Wilson arrived in December, McCourt admits to feeling frustrated with his lack of game time.

"I signed for Barnsley in mid-August so I missed a wee bit of pre-season. I got up to speed and after my first game in September I started a run of games," explained the ex-Celtic ace.

"I was doing quite well but since the new manager has come in I've been back on the bench. The manager seems to prefer more defensive players.

"He's probably looking at the league table and hoping to grind results out. You would need to ask him why I haven't been playing as much lately.

"There's still 14 or 15 games left so hopefully I can force my way back in and do well. I'm fit and raring to go."

The Barnsley fans would certainly love to see the gifted McCourt play more in their battle to avoid the drop to League One.

He says: "I think fans like to see creative players. When I first broke in at Barnsley I played well, scored some nice goals and all fans seem to take to things like that."

Northern Ireland supporters included.

They are happy to see McCourt back in the fray and he is delighted to be in Cyprus for tomorrow's friendly.

"Through injuries and other things I've missed the last few games so it would be good to get another cap," says the 30-year-old, who has made 13 international appearances.

"Hopefully I can play against Cyprus, if not from the start then from the bench, and try to help the team."

On his relationship with Northern Ireland boss O'Neill, McCourt adds: "I've known Michael a long time, from before he was manager. I speak to him regularly. He knows me inside out and what I bring to the team, so it's up to him if he uses me or not."

While most of the players looked at Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 group draw and saw Greece, Hungary, Romania and Finland, McCourt could be forgiven for focusing on the Faroe Islands, having scored two spectacular goals against them in a 4-0 win on their last visit to Windsor in 2011.

"I really enjoyed that game and scored my first two international goals which was obviously memorable. I hope I can get the chance to do the same this time around," he says.

"The boys were speaking about our group and although it will be tough it's not impossible. It's not just the Faroes... we can go into every game thinking we have a good chance of winning."

Belfast Telegraph


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