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Irish League kids must seize their chance to shine, says Magilton

By Stuart McKinley

JIM Magilton is urging the young Irish League players in his Northern Ireland Under-21 squad to use the international team as a springboard to the big time.

And the former international captain, who played Premier League football for Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, believes that the opportunity is still there for Linfield ace Paul Smyth and Glenavon youngster Mark Sykes to make it into the full-time game because there are examples of others who have made the move in their early 20s.

Crusaders star Gavin Whyte and Sykes' Mourneview Park colleagues Rhys Marshall and Joel Cooper have also been capped recently by Magilton, but aren't in the squad that will face France in their final Uefa Under-21 Championship qualifier against France at Windsor Park this evening (5.45pm kick-off).

The game does, however, give Smyth, who scored the Northern Ireland goal in last week's 1-1 draw in Ukraine, and Sykes another opportunity to impress.

"I watch a lot of Irish League games and those lads who have been in the squad are standing out and they deserve the opportunity to play," said Magilton.

"I really hope they haven't missed the boat. I could tell you there is a cut-off point and then somebody like a Gareth McAuley or a Stuart Dallas throws it back at you.

"I'm not sure there's ever a cut off point. Those two lads are rarities, but it does happen. And if you look at their quality they still have a good opportunity.

"It's about inner belief, self belief. I have no hesitation in playing them. Probably in the next campaign we'll have a few more in and have a look at them."

Belfast Telegraph


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