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13 October 2023



13 October 2023

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Viktor Johansson was not the only Rotherham United player making headlines for his international exploits on Thursday with young attacker Ciaran McGuckin finding the net with the decisive goal in the Northern Ireland U21s victory over Azerbaijan.

The 19-year-old bagged his first goal for the U21s with a near-post header which proved to be the only goal of the game in the 1-0 win on Thursday afternoon with McGuckin left delighted that work back here at Roundwood had paid off on the international stage.

When describing the goal to on Friday morning, the Academy graduate explained how the influence of the coaching staff at Rotherham had helped him to his first U21s goal.

"It was fairly early on in the first half when we got the corner and I've made the run - having started off by the goalkeeper - to the near post to flick it on and into the net,” McGuckin explained.

"To be fair, I was delighted with it for a few reasons. One; because it turned out to be the winning goal away from home in an international match which doesn't happen very often and two; that's something that we've been working on at Roundwood with Georgie [Kelly], Tom [Eaves] and Jordan [Hugill]. It's something I want to add more of into my game in terms of headed goals.

"I said it in my interview after the game that I feel like - not a different player but - my experiences in and around the first team at Roundwood have definitely helped me a lot. There are elements to my game that I have sharpened up on even just watching players like Jordan week-in-week-out.

"I look at these players with all their experience and try to see what I can take to add to my own game. I have definitely noticed an improvement in myself and even the goal I scored I feel like I might have accidentally replicated Jordan's celebration! Maybe I need to stop watching him on that front!”

The encounter between Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan had been evenly-poised until McGuckin had headed home with the forward shedding light on his thoughts on an opposition that he was impressed with after the game.

"I think the opposition were a little bit better than we had anticipated, so to start with the game was fairly balanced and I think we had a little bit of a slow start,” he continued.

"I made sure that I was contributing as best I could, pressing high, running in behind and coming to feet to link it up when possible.

"We played a 4-3-3 and I played as the '9' which was a great experience.

"It was another opportunity to start which I wanted to try and take.

"I think overall as a team we put a good performance in and even though we were down to 10 men for an hour of the game, we battled hard. 

"We dug in and stayed tight as a unit and it was a proper shift but we got the result that we needed, so it is just nice to be up and running for this campaign.”

McGuckin and his Northern Ireland teammates will now prepare for a tough fixture against Serbia on Monday before his South Yorkshire return, with the young forward – who has a mature head on his shoulders – hoping to use the remaining time away with his country as a platform to kick on when he rejoins his Millers colleagues.

"All of this experience can be used when I get back to Roundwood and can help me to make an impact this season, whether that is staying in and around it as long as I can or going out and playing regular minutes on loan somewhere,” he added.

"We had the two games in the last camp and in the first of those we were far from our best when we lost 1-0 to Luxembourg and in the second we put a really good performance in but Ukraine were a good side. On another day the 1-0 defeat in that one we could have won.

"We have another game on Monday against Serbia at home and hopefully we can take the performance from yesterday into that and get another three points.”



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