NIALL McGinn earned the Ladbrokes Player of the Month Award for September with the quality of his displays for Aberdeen but the midfielder’s performances with Northern Ireland have secured a place in the country’s history books.
The former Celtic player will forever be remembered for being part of the squad that booked their place at a first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup finals.
What’s more, Northern Ireland, under the management of former Don Michael O’Neill, became the first team to win a group after being seeded in Pot 5.
It means McGinn can now look forward to spending next summer at Euro 2016 in France, a transformation in fortune that someone who made his international debut in 2008 can hardly credit. The low point for McGinn came two years ago when they lost 3-2 to Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier so it’s no surprise that qualification is taking some getting used to.
McGinn said: “It’s really nice to be recognised for what I’ve done at Aberdeen and it has topped off what has been an unbelievable week for me. Not only qualifying for the finals in France but doing it as the first country to win the group after being drawn in Pot 5 was beyond our wildest dreams. I wasn’t even born the last time Northern Ireland qualified for a major tournament so to go down in history as being part of it is incredible.
“I can remember all those years travelling to countries, playing in big matches and not winning them. The task now will be to do as well as possible for our clubs to get one of the 23 places in the squad next summer.”
In recent weeks Aberdeen have suffered a trio of domestic defeats for the first time since Derek McInnes took control. Losses to Hibs in the League Cup and Inverness Caley Thistle in the league were disappointing enough but the 5-1 hammering by St Johnstone was much more concerning.
Aberdeen will now look to bounce back away to Ross County on Friday.
“That Ross County game can’t come quickly enough after what happened against St Johnstone,” McGinn said. “The boys know themselves that wasn’t acceptable.”