Jamie McGrath hopes to repay Republic of Ireland manager's faith

The Aberdeen star has been named in the Ireland for upcoming games.

Jamie McGrath hopes to repay Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny’s faith SNS Group

Aberdeen star Jamie McGrath is targeting a major scalp as he attempts to make the most of his belated chance to shine on the international stage.

The 27-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder has travelled something of a circuitous route to make his way into Stephen Kenny’s squad having waited until June 2021 to win his first senior cap, and he will hope to play a role at the end of a disappointing Euro 2024 qualification campaign in the Netherlands on Saturday.

It has been a feature of Kenny’s reign – which seems certain to draw to a close after Tuesday night’s friendly with New Zealand in Dublin – that he has promoted players from the under-21s ranks, but McGrath was largely passed over at that level and had to bide his time before being handed the opportunity he craved.

He told a press conference: “I barely had any caps up until the 21s, played a bit of 19s, a small bit of 21s, so I think the bottom line is to keep going, keep believing how good you are.

“It only takes a good three to four months to change everybody’s opinion – football is like that.

“If you score a good few goals in a short amount of time, it can bring you to places, or a few good performances week after week can totally change everyone’s outlook, so I think the main thing is to be patient and keep that belief in yourself.”

McGrath, a League of Ireland winner under Kenny at Dundalk, started his career in Ireland with St Patrick’s Athletic before earning his move to Oriel Park, but it was in Scotland that he first rose to prominence, scoring 17 goals for St Mirren during the 2020-21 season, a return which won him a first senior appearance in a 4-1 friendly victory over Andorra.

That form prompted League One Wigan to make a move for him, but that simply did not work out and his lack of football saw him briefly slip out of Kenny’s thoughts.

However, after a loan spell back in the Scottish Premiership at Dundee United last season, he joined the Dons this summer and scored a stunning equaliser in last week’s 2-2 Europa Conference League draw with PAOK in Greece to underline his form.

Asked about missing out on Ireland squads during his spell at Wigan, he said: “That probably was the lowest, not getting called up to the squad.

“But it was impossible for the gaffer to pick me because I hadn’t played in months. That’s football, you can have your highs and lows.

“I obviously experienced some of that at Wigan, but you have to remember what you’ve achieved so far, you have to have that underlying confidence in your own ability no matter how hard it gets. It’s a ruthless game.”

McGrath is understandably loyal to Kenny and is desperate to end a difficult campaign on a positive note in Amsterdam whatever the future may hold for the manager.

He said: “Every time you play in the green shirt, you have to do the jersey proud, but of course we always give our best for the gaffer, and personally, he’s been really, really good for me and my career.

“He gave me a chance at Dundalk and obviously brought me up here to get my first cap, so yes, of course we’ll do it all for him as well.”

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