Michael O'Neill: Northern Ireland to 'carry on as usual' ahead of manager's last home game, says Niall McGinn

Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 qualifier against the Netherlands could be the final time Michael O'Neill is in the home dugout at Windsor Park

Niall McGinn says he hopes Northern Ireland can give manager Michael O'Neill "a nice send-off" in what could be his final home game in charge.

O'Neill was appointed as manager of Stoke City last week but will remain in charge of Northern Ireland for the rest of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

The Netherlands travel to Windsor Park on Saturday and McGinn says that "it's business as usual" for the NI squad.

"It's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere," said the Aberdeen winger.

"If one man can juggle club football and international football then it is Michael," added McGinn.

"He will keep working hard but I'm sure it will be a bit of a distraction with him being the Stoke manager as well."

After Saturday's encounter with the Dutch, NI then conclude their Group C campaign against Germany in Frankfurt and will potentially be involved in play-offs next March.

"We know Saturday is going to be a nice send-off for him with it possibly being his last home game.

"All in all, it's down to us as players to carry on as usual, keep working hard behind the scenes and look forward to these big games.

"It's hard to take away the circumstances, it's hard to take away the atmosphere and a lot of people are talking about it potentially being his last home game.

"We just have to go out on the pitch and worry about putting in a good performance for ourselves, for the fans and for Michael as well.

"He'll be wanting a good send-off so it is up to the players to work hard, as a collective unit with the fans, to come together and hopefully it can be a good night for everybody."

Have to enjoy the big occasion

After being unfortunate not to leave Rotterdam with something to show for their efforts last month, McGinn says that Northern Ireland's players have to savour playing against big name opposition like the Netherlands.

McGinn uses the example of Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk, who starred for Celtic before making the move to the Premier League.

"I've played against him at Celtic and it's great to see how his career has blossomed," said the 32-year-old.

"My dad and my brother are massive Liverpool fans, so for their son and their brother to be up against these players is unbelievable.

"For me, as a local boy from around Dungannon, I never, ever thought I would get to these occasions and playing against the best players in the world. It is one of those where you just have to enjoy them when they come around.

"It just becomes the norm. I've been here for a long time, for both the bad times and for the unbelievable times."

Niall McGinn and Jonny Evans
Niall McGinn credits Jonny Evans for his work behind the scenes

While the Dutch side is littered with star players, McGinn believes that Northern Ireland's Premier League players are crucial to any success.

"I just look at it as a player coming in from Scotland who gets to play with the likes of Jonny [Evans] and Craig [Cathcart], who we are watching in the Premier League week in, week out.

"You just have to learn off these players and take their advice along the way.

"That can only help me and that then helps the team too.

"You have to take everything on board because it can only be positive and benefit you as a player and the team as well."

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