Friday 27 April 2018

North are now a formidable force, says Magennis

Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis signs a fans flag before attending a press conference at weekend Saturday. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis signs a fans flag before attending a press conference at weekend Saturday. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA

Liam Blackburn

Josh Magennis' career scaled new heights when he helped Northern Ireland defeat Ukraine and he joked he might as well aim for the moon if Michael O'Neill's men can overcome Germany.

Northern Ireland's first ever European Championship finals win in Lyon on Thursday kept them in the last-16 hunt in France and three points over the reigning world champions in Paris will see them advance to the knockout stages.

Magennis, 25, scored his first international goal in the qualification-sealing win over Greece back in October, but that milestone has been eclipsed by the victory over Ukraine, and even that fresh memory will be bettered if O'Neill's side can produce a famous triumph in the French capital next Tuesday.

"The Greece game was the pinnacle of my international career then because of my first start and first goal and getting to the European Championships," Magennis said.

"To get to what we call the Graceland and to just win in the style that we won was fantastic.

"(But) I've never felt an experience to get in a changing room after the (Ukraine) game with such a brotherhood of team-mates.

"We have to go into every game thinking we will win, but if we win in Paris, anything could happen ... book a first-class ticket to the moon!"

Read more: 'We are capable of breaking Italy down and progressing' - Martin O'Neill

The Kilmarnock striker came off the bench to help set up the second goal for fellow replacement Niall McGinn in a move that showed Northern Ireland are not just the physical bullies one Ukrainian player had pegged them as.

Those comments from Ruslan Rotan, coupled with suggestions from pundits such as Ray Wilkins that they would be eliminated without securing a point, rankled with O'Neill's squad.

"We know now, and most importantly the other teams know now, we are a formidable force," Magennis said.

"They can't write us off as just being Northern Ireland or underestimating us or disrespecting us. If they do, that type of performance proved we will damage most teams.

"As a person your ego never wants to take a hit, regardless of what you say.

Read more: Five things we learned from Republic of Ireland's defeat to Belgium

"We are an effective team the way we play, we know we are not going to be an 80 per cent possession-based team. It's all about making the right decisions at the right times. That's what we proved."

Magennis also hailed the gumption of his manager, who gambled with his starting line-up by making five changes following the narrow loss to Poland.

"We only got beaten by a goal, but to make those decisions, to have the balls to do that in such magnitude of the game ... if we had been beaten it was more or less done and dusted," Magennis said.

"It was make or break and he decided to throw caution to the wind and show a lot of faith in a lot of players who might not play week in, week out for him or at club level.

"At this stage he has us so well drilled, his man-management's fantastic. We know, and he knows, his faith in us is never flawed."

Sunday Indo Sport

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