NIALL McGinn believes both the Irish League and League of Ireland have huge potential in terms of unearthing the next generation of international footballers.
The Northern Ireland winger was delighted to see Michael O’Neill’s troops maintain their perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying with a 2-1 comeback victory over Estonia in Tallin on Saturday night.
And with three former Irish League forwards, Liam Boyce (Cliftonville), Stuart Dallas (Crusaders) and Gavin Whyte (Crusaders), leading a three-pronged attack for the Green and White Army and Mark Sykes (Glenavon) on the bench, McGinn believes it’s a sign of green shoots for the domestic game.
The Republic of Ireland boasted McGinn’s former Derry City teammate, James McClean alongside Seamus Coleman (Sligo Rovers), Enda Stevens (Shamrock Rovers), Ronan Curtis (Derry City) and Sean Maguire (Cork) among its League of Ireland graduates in their 1-1 draw against Denmark on Friday night.
And the Aberdeen star reckons, with a bit more help from the respective governing bodies, that conveyor belt of talent can be greatly enhanced.
Indeed, McGinn believes the domestic leagues are the perfect platform for eventual international recognition.
“It just shows you, if you look at the squad now, you have myself and last night you had Stuart Dallas, Liam Boyce and Gavin Whyte all playing in the front three,” he pointed out.
“It just shows you there is talent there and it’s about the wee bit of luck the guys need along the way.
“It’s worth getting more scouts to come watch the Irish League. There is definitely talent there. It’s just about the boys getting a break and the luck that you need.”
McGinn admits he received that little slice of fortune himself when former Derry City manager and future Republic of Ireland senior international manager, Stephen Kenny plucked him from relative obscurity while playing for Dungannon Swifts in the Irish League.
He claims he owes a great deal of gratitude to the Ireland U21 boss for giving him a shot at full-time football in 2008 which swiftly led to a life-changing move to Scottish Premier League giants, Celtic.
“Even for the likes of myself, I was playing for Dungannon Swifts and Stephen Kenny happened to be there watching a game one night when I happened to impress and do well. He was on the phone and wanted me to sign for Derry City and obviously the rest is history.
“So you just need that wee break along the way but there’s huge potential in both the northern league and the southern league as well where players go across Channel constantly. So it’s good to see.”
His former boss, Kenny is currently impressing in the U21 international tournament in Toulon where he has guided the Irish team to the semi-finals where they meet Brazil on Wednesday. And McGinn reckons the Dubliner’s success if ‘fully deserved’.
“I’m delighted for him. He deserves everything that comes his way.
“I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago about me coming over here. So it’s great to see a man like Stephen, given how well he did for me and for Derry and Dundalk, to be rewarded on the international stage. It’s fully deserved.
“He’ll go away now and gain as much experience as he possibly can with the Ireland teams and when the time comes around, working with the first team I’m sure he’ll be more than ready and I wish him all the best.”
The Aberdeen winger was in Derry on Sunday to launch the 2019 O’Neills Foyle Cup.