Niall McGinn backs Northern Ireland teammates to reach 12 points target in Belarus

Niall McGinn celebrates scoring against Estonia at Windsor Park last March.
Niall McGinn celebrates scoring against Estonia at Windsor Park last March.

NIALL McGinn has backed his Northern Ireland teammates to maintain their perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying against Belarus on Tuesday night.

The 31 year-old Aberdeen winger knows there's little room for error in Group C and so he's hoping the Green and White Army can secure their 12 points target from their opening four matches when they take on the Belarusians in Barysaw.

Currently recovering from his successful ankle ligament surgery, McGinn says he's on course for a return to action this summer as SPL club, Aberdeen begin their own European qualifiers.

The Donaghmore man is also desperate to be involved in Northern Ireland's four quickfire dates against Germany and Netherlands later this year and is hoping Michael O'Neill's troops are still in the mix by the time the Germans visit Windsor Park on September 9th.

"I'll concentrate getting back fit and hopefully I'll be involved when the Germany and Holland games come around later this year," said McGinn.

"When you looked at the first four games of the qualifying campaign which were double headers, both against Estonia and Belarus, we wanted to get maximum points from those because we know how tough the group is with having Germany and Holland in the group.

"So we set out with the target of 12 points and we're on nine now, so we're on course and hopefully the boys can finish that off with another three points against Belarus."

McGinn was on the plane from Scotland to Belfast as Josh Magennis kept alive Northern Ireland's hopes of qualifying with an 80th minute winner in Talinn to make it three wins from three.

He netted the opening goal when the sides last met in the 2-0 win last March in the group opener - his first striker at Windsor Park - and so he was delighted to learn of the result when he stepped off the plane on Saturday night.

"It was a brilliant result," he added. "I was watching the first half and it probably wasn't going as well as I wanted it to.

"I was on the plane then flying over and came off it and seen big Josh had come on and scored two goals which was massive for us."

It's been five weeks since his operation on his ankle injury sustained in training with the Dons and he admits it's been frustrating not being in the thick of the action having played the previous three internationals.

"It has been frustrating," he admitted. "Playing those last two games I think it was the first time in my Northern Ireland career where I played three games on the bounce. It's always difficult at international level to play consistently. There's so much competition for places, especially in the wide areas.

"Sometimes we played with three at the back or we've played a 4-3-3 and it's been difficult. So I was over the moon to get the go ahead for the last three games and to score my first goal at Windsor Park was massive for me.

"I've scored some important goals for Northern Ireland but that was my first goal at Windsor Park and it's something I've always wanted to do so thankfully I've done that.

"So I've achieved a lot in my international career. I've played and scored at the Euros, qualifying for a major tournament, getting over 50 caps and scoring a few goals so it has been unbelievable."

He spent the last few weeks of his rehabilitation programme in the United States and now can't wait to return to Pittodrie to step up his training regime.

"There's plenty of hills in San Francisco so I was doing a bit of cycling and walking. It's been five weeks since my operation. I was back in with the physios on Thursday and Friday and I'll be back in tomorrow again.

"So I'm back in training early to give myself the best opportunity to get as fit as I possibly can."