Niall McGinn ready to go for Northern Ireland in Bosnia
IF Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough were preparing a wish-list for clubs to choose from, a Scottish side involved in Europa League qualifying would be right up there.
Step forward Aberdeen's Niall McGinn, who's ready to make another important impact for Northern Ireland as they travel today to take on Bosnia & Herzegovina tomorrow night.
After calling off its season early, Scottish football returned at the start of August, so McGinn has played eight club games so far, including four starts, and is feeling sharp:
"Definitely, we've had a long pre-season, back from the second, third week in June, we had seven weeks with no competitive games. We were just delighted to get things up and running.
"Obviously Aberdeen were a wee bit unfortunate with the Covid restrictions and a few guys breaking the rules, which meant we were playing catch-up, but things couldn't have worked out any better for us as a club, we've won a lot of games and we still have two in hand."
As well as their domestic outings, the Dons played three Europa League qualifiers, including winning away to Viking Stavanger in Norway before bowing out 1-0 to Portuguese giants Sporting in Lisbon.
"The European games were good as well to be involved in…We've been up and running for a while now and fitness-wise I feel great, so I'm more than ready if called upon."
McGinn certainly has no concerns about travel, insisting: "I've no qualms, no worries, I've been in Norway already, we [NI] go there next week [in the Nations League], I've been to Portugal and different places.
"Everything is going fluently, everything seems to be run very well. As a group of players we just have to concentrate on our training and take things as they come, work hard – and give the ultimate performance that we're capable of."
With coronavirus restrictions, Baraclough's squad only fly out today, but McGinn is happy with that approach:
""I think we're doing it right. We're based here the whole time for nine or 10 days…We trained Monday, Tuesday, and we'll train on Wednesday morning so we're getting good preparation at good facilities.
"We're still training the day before the game and getting a good session into our legs. It's then about getting over there, getting settled in, going for a walk and having our usual routine on the day of the game.
"Our preparations have been perfect and it's probably better for us to train here than going over there and the facilities maybe not being as good. I haven't been to Bosnia yet, so we'll just hit it head on and give it our all."
The 33-year-old started and starred two years ago as NI battered the Bosnians at Windsor Park – but simply couldn't score until injury time, and somehow slipped to a 2-1 defeat.
Recalling that game, the Tyrone man says: "I think it was one of my best games for Northern Ireland. I created plenty of chances and I just tried to get on the ball and I really enjoyed that game.
"Michael [O'Neill] had a good discussion with me beforehand, told me to go out and enjoy it. He said 'You've 50 caps, you've played at a major tournament and scored goals, just go and enjoy it' and it worked out well for me, even if the result was disappointing.
"We've been looking back over the two Bosnia games and doing research and looking at the things we did well which we can maybe do again on Thursday night."
The second match McGinn mentions was the 2-0 loss in Sarajevo, the return Nations League B meeting in mid-October 2018: "I missed the second game through injury, I was gutted, I thought I was doing well.
"I watched the game and we created more chances than enough to win the game, George Saville and Gavin Whyte [twice] hitting the post as well, it just didn't work out on the night.
"Obviously this is another opportunity and no bigger opportunity than Thursday night to put things right. We're just concerned with getting ready for Thursday and giving it our all."