Belfast Telegraph

Watch: I'm not Northern Ireland number one...yet, says Trevor Carson

By Gareth Hanna

Trevor Carson has waited a long time to get his hands on the Northern Ireland journey and he's not intending to let go.

Included in many a squad but resigned to the bench (if even), the Motherwell stopper finally took to the pitch for his country in the home friendly against South Korea in March, aged 30.

He added a second cap during the week in Panama but he's not getting carried away just yet. Michael McGovern has been Northern Ireland first choice goalkeeper since before the Euro 2016 finals, in which he earned rave reviews.

And now Carson insists the future of the international gloves lie in McGovern's hands, even if he is struggling for game-time at Norwich.

"Michael has been outstanding for the country and it's Michael's decision in the long run who is the number one," said Carson.

"That's why I would never say I'm the number one goalkeeper. In my mind I'm not. I've got a massive battle against Michael, who has done it on the top stage. He's done it at the Euros - he was outstanding for us, probably our stand-out player.

"I've got a lot on my plate to challenge him and prove I can play on that stage when it's three points up for grabs."

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Northern Ireland goalkeeper Trevor Carson is savouring his moment between the sticks and is determined to stay there.

As part of the goalkeepers' union, Carson was also keen to talk up upcoming talents Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who made his senior debut in Panama, and Conor Hazard (Celtic).

"Bailey and Conor are two great prospects," he said. "Only a year or two ago I was talking to my granda about how there's nothing coming through in terms of goalkeepers and now it's like, I better buck up my ideas. They're champing at the bit. Bailey's playing at a really good level with Leeds. He got his chance, he had to take it and he's certainly done that.

"My ultimate aim is to dethrone Michael, then those young guys can come through and challenge me and it's up to me to do what Michael's trying to do to me now; keep them as far away from the jersey as possible.

"That's the joy of being a goalkeeper - it will be a friendly battle. We all get on well and whoever does go out and play, the others want them to do well. It's a great spirit that we've got."

It's hard not to feel a sense of delight for Carson, who is evidently savouring every aspect of his stint in the national spotlight.

"Growing up watching Northern Ireland, it literally was only a dream to think about playing for them," he said. "Now I'm doing it, being part of it is fantastic. I'm taking in every moment. Long may it continue. I know I've done the easy bit by getting myself in the squad and now's the hard bit; playing the games and trying to keep the jersey. That's what I aim to do.

"It's very rare for a keeper to go straight into that competitive stage. A lot start off in friendlies and it's given me more confidence. I'll only grow with these friendlies so hoping when the time does come to play in a competitive game, I'll be more than ready."

Carson is expected to start Sunday's game against Costa Rica (kick-off 6pm BST).

"The fans over here are crazy," he said. "It's a carnival feeling to it. It's up to us - Michael (O'Neill) threw down the gauntlet to spoil the party. That's our aim."

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