Belfast Telegraph

South Korea will give our boys a real test, warns Niall McGinn

Insider view: Niall McGinn has been able to offer boss Michael O’Neill an insight into attacking threats South Korea will pose
Insider view: Niall McGinn has been able to offer boss Michael O’Neill an insight into attacking threats South Korea will pose

By Graham Luney

Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn knows Northern Ireland will face a tough assignment against South Korea in tomorrow's friendly at Windsor Park.

The 30-year-old from Dungannon won't feature as he is nursing a groin strain but he was able to assist boss Michael O'Neill with his homework.

McGinn became the first player from the United Kingdom to play in South Korea when he left Aberdeen to join Gwangju FC in the K-League Classic.

Although the former Celtic ace has no regrets over his brief Asian adventure, it was a career move that didn't take off.

This year he has returned to Pittodrie and he also wants to reignite his international career after becoming something of a forgotten man.

As South Korea are warming up for World Cup action this summer, McGinn knows the visitors will be well organised and hungry to impress.

"They're very fit, very strong, don't give you much time on the ball," said the former Dungannon Swifts and Derry City winger.

"They work very hard. South Korean people really look after themselves even in day to day training. Even outside of training they're doing their own stuff, it was just the norm when I was over there, every morning, seven o'clock, all the South Korean lads would be up going for a walk, jog.

"They are always together, they eat together, even outside of training they always stick together, even if they're going for meals with friends it's always in a group. They're just generally very nice people.

"Football wise, there are a lot of very good technical footballers as you've seen with Spurs player Son Heung-min, but even in my league, although we were bottom, the teams at the top were very good footballing sides and there were a lot of very good players in that team that won the league that year.

"Regarding four or five in that team that will probably be in the South Korea team this week, it's got the potential for a very good and tough game.

"Ki Sung-yueng's probably the only one that I've played with at Celtic.

"All in all it's just an interesting game. They're no mugs, they're constantly qualifying for World Cups and major tournaments. It will be a difficult game but one the boys are looking forward to."

Reflecting on his move to South Korea, McGinn admitted it was a struggle to adapt physically.

"I enjoyed it regarding the lifestyle and a new experience for me," he added.

"Football wise, it just didn't work. That's just the truth. I was playing catch-up, I signed halfway through their season but it was a new experience that came to me and I've definitely no regrets.

"An experience like that can only stand me in good stead coming back to Aberdeen and the Northern Ireland set-up too.

"It was an opportunity and I thought why not. I was still young enough in football terms, had plenty of years left.

"It was a very good experience. Football wise it didn't work out. The team I signed for were doing badly in the league and we didn't pick up from there and we ended up getting relegated.

"Club football and international took an affect on each other.

"To be completely left out of the squad for the November games was sad at the time," he said.

"Just to not make the squad was a massive disappointment. That's obviously Michael's decision. I still felt fit, good."

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