O'Neill influence inspiring coach aspirations: McGinn
Northern Ireland hero Niall McGinn believes the success of the national team in recent years is a motivating factor for a number of Michael O'Neill's players to consider a future career in coaching.
To illustrate the point, there are six stars of the country's Euro 2016 adventure doing their coaching badges in Belfast this week.
Kings of Lyon McGinn and Gareth McAuley, who both netted in the famous 2-0 win over Ukraine at the last European Championships in France, Windsor Park idol and scorer of 20 goals at the highest level Kyle Lafferty, goalkeeping great Roy Carroll, Aaron Hughes, winner of over 100 caps, and popular striker Josh Magennis are all learning new aspects of the sport they have played since they were youngsters.
Alongside them are world renowned players such as Portuguese heroes Ricardo Carvalho and Tiago Mendes, Everton and South African favourite Steven Piennar and ex-Manchester City and England defender Joleon Lescott plus well-known Irish League figures such as Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew, Larne striker Tommy Stewart, Gary Smyth and Paul Leeman, now part of Glentoran's coaching 'dream team', and new Banbridge Town boss Stuart King.
The IFA's courses, headed by highly-regarded coach education manager Nigel Best, are known throughout the football world.
Best and his staff are strong advocates of bringing through the next generation of Northern Ireland coaches to work at all levels of the game here.
The message from the six Northern Ireland stars is that the skill of coaching is completely different to that of playing and that while understanding the game is one thing, communicating it effectively to others is something else entirely.
McGinn said the international team-mates are supporting each other through the process.
"Being part of a successful Northern Ireland team and working under manager Michael O'Neill, and seeing the way he puts his ideas across, motivates you to go on and become a coach in later life and maybe become a manager as well," stated the 30-year-old.
"Obviously the opportunity to do coaching courses in Belfast is fantastic. It shows the quality of the course when you see big names like Carvalho and Tiago involved.
"It has also attracted Northern Ireland internationals like ourselves and it's good that the six of us are on it together because we can give each other support.
"We are a tight-knit group who have been together for a number of years and to come away and work with others on a course like this can only benefit us for the future as coaches if that is the road we want to go down."
McGinn added it is vital that he tries to earn his coaching badges now rather than wait until he has finished playing.
"It has always been in the back of my mind to do it," the Tyrone man said.
"For me it was just about getting the opportunity and time to do it because when you are a current player and international you have a relatively busy schedule. In recent summers we had the Euro 2016 finals and the tour to South America.
"I felt it was important to do the badges when I was still playing rather than when I'd finished because when you finish you are playing catch up and might find it more difficult.
"When you are still involved at a club you can learn from the managers you are playing under.
"Also at your club you can join in and coach the kids which I will probably want to do in the next couple of years.
"Coaching is so different to playing. You are out of your comfort zone but with the staff on the course I feel I'm learning and I'm enjoying the experience."
Ex-Bangor and Glenavon boss Best added: "All sports have moved on and football has to do the same. Your head is in the sand if you feel you can get away with being a coach or manager in the modern game without having done courses like those we run in Northern Ireland.
"The reputation of our courses has grown over the years and the people who have been through them in many ways become a marketing tool because they tell others about their experiences and they want to enrol. It's great for Northern Ireland to have so many quality people here."