Controversial Glentoran striker Jay Donnelly has declared his desire to play for Northern Ireland.
Earlier this year, international boss Ian Baraclough created a storm when he told Sunday Life Sport he would seriously consider selecting the Ardoyne front man for Northern Ireland, despite his chequered past.
Now, as Donnelly is confirmed as the Irish League’s Golden Boot winner after netting his 30th goal of the season against Larne in Friday night’s Euro Play-Off, the 27-year-old, who served time in 2019 for admitting the charge of distributing an indecent image of a child, concedes he would relish the opportunity to play for Baraclough at senior international level.
“Honestly, I would love to go and play for Northern Ireland. It’s something everyone wants to do”, stated Donnelly.
“If it was there and it was an option I’d be happy, but I’m not going to say I’m there at the moment.”
Former Cliftonville forward Donnelly has taken full advantage of being afforded a second chance at top-level club football in Northern Ireland by Glentoran boss Mick McDermott.
Despite the Glens enduring a disappointing season — ending trophyless and without a European spot — Donnelly has been in red-hot form.
It’s all a far cry from April 2019 when, following the much publicised court case, he was sacked by Cliftonville and then suspended by the Irish FA for bringing the game into disrepute.
Since then, Donnelly returned to football with Belfast Celtic before Glentoran brought him back into senior football under a cloud of criticism in September 2020.
Having seen his career rejuvenated, Donnelly has set his sights higher and today admits his double ambition of playing professional football across the water along with being selected for Northern Ireland.
His hopes of achieving his second goal were heightened in February, when Baraclough offered an olive branch and insisted he believes everyone deserves a second chance in life.
“You are talking about an individual who I know obviously divides opinion but if he is having a good season and I feel it’s right, I have no problems in calling people up,” stated Baraclough.
“That’s where we stand. I’m judging people on how I see their footballing ability and can they go and equate that to the international scene.”
While Donnelly was pleased to read those encouraging words, he accepts he is down the international pecking order at the moment.
“There are lads playing at a higher level than me. I feel like I can get to that level but I’m not there yet,” said Donnelly.
To reach that level, Donnelly may be forced to move across the water if a professional club in England or Scotland are willing to take on a striker with so much baggage.
But if that doesn’t happen, he is more than happy to remain at The BetMcLean Oval.
“Playing across the water has always been a dream of mine, but I’m a player at Glentoran and I’m happy here,” adds Donnelly.
“If anything did develop, it would be up to the gaffer whatever he decided to do; I’m just focused on here.”
He continued: “Since I came to Glentoran, the manager has put me through the middle and I feel like I found my feet straight away and I feel like I’ve found a good place to continue.
“I’m already thinking about next season. Why can’t I go and score 35 goals next season? I want to keep improving.
“I will look over the season and see how I can better myself and as a team we’ll do the same.
“This season has been a hard one to take and Friday night was devastating, but that’s football for you.
“I’ll take a break for a week or so and then I want to come back for pre-season in a couple of weeks.”