Neil Lennon has revealed the he tried to persuade Mikey Johnston to play for Ireland over Scotland when he was at Celtic Park as manager. The Lurgan native says he and coach Damien Duff pestered the youngster about the potential switch way before the player actually made the jump from Hampden Park to the Aviva Stadium.
The 22-year-old represented the Dark Blues at Under-21 level and even scored some memorable goals for Scott Gemmill’s men along the way. However, recently he answers the call of Stephen Kenny who was eager for the Scots-born attacker to join his cause through using the grandparent rule and turn out for the green of Ireland.
Johnston did just that and made a significant impact on his debut against Latvia in a 3-2 win in Dublin back in the international break during March. He showed great promise and will be hoping he can stay fit and make more of a contribution going forward for his new international side. Lennon has stated that he and Damien Duff tried to get him to consider this move a few years back though.
Lennon said: “Damien and I were pestering Mikey for months and months; saying ‘don’t play for Scotland, play for Ireland’, as reported by Scottish Sun. “I didn’t actually know until I watched the France game that he had joined up with Ireland. He’s a mercurial player, with good feet and good pace.”
The man who has been on-loan at Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugual is due to report back to Lennoxtown at the end of this campaign, having signed an extension on his current deal before taking himself to the Portuguese top-flight. Postecoglou will no doubt wish to cast another watchful eye over him before making a final call, and if he can stay fit, Lennon reckons he can be a real asset.
The 51-year-old said: “From what I gather, his form in Portugal has been good and it’s been great to see him get senior caps. A plethora of injury problems curtailed him, but if Mikey can stay fit, he would be a real bonus for Ireland. Hopefully, his injury problems are behind him because he’s a lovely boy and I hope he makes a good run of it.”