Ethan Galbraith (file pic). Alamy Stock Photo

Antrim youngster backed to flourish despite leaving Man United

Ethan Galbraith made only one senior appearance in six years with the Red Devils.

MICHAEL O’NEILL believes Ethan Galbraith can raise his level after leaving Manchester United as a free agent this summer.

The 22-year-old Antrim-born midfielder is hoping he can this week add to his two Northern Ireland caps – he earned the last of them back in 2020 – after being called into O’Neill’s squad for Euro 2024 qualifiers away to Denmark and at home to Kazakhstan despite his uncertain club future.

Galbraith made only one senior appearance in six years with United, featuring in the Europa League in 2019 under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but has no shortage of potential suitors after impressing during loan spells at Doncaster and Salford in the past two seasons.

O’Neill, who said he had received “a number of phone calls” from clubs asking after Galbraith, said it was now up to the player to choose a team where he can establish himself.

“He’s now in the next phase of his career, when you maybe see the best of a player in his career when he’s not a loan player,” O’Neill said.

“He’s spent the last two years as a loan player, initially at Doncaster and then Salford. But now I suppose in a way, the safety net of Manchester United is pulled away.

“I know that from dealing with loan players at Stoke and sometimes you get the best version of a player in that situation.

“I think Ethan knows that, we’ve had a conversation about that. What’s important for Ethan is what he chooses to do next but what he’s shown us in the last few weeks is that his appetite for the game is there, he’s a quality player and he’s demonstrated his quality on the ball.

“He just needs to find the right club with the right manager to get the best out of him.”

Galbraith’s return to the Northern Ireland senior squad comes at a time when O’Neill remains without several regulars through injury.

Jonny Evans has returned but Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans, Liam Boyce, Josh Magennis, Conor Washington and Shane Ferguson remain sidelined, with O’Neill once again relying on youth to keep qualification hopes alive.

Among the five uncapped players in the squad is 23-year-old forward Lee Bonis, who is attracting interest in England himself after his 15 goals in 36 appearances helped Larne claim the Irish League title in April.

Bonis was among several fresh faces called into post-season training camps by O’Neill as he ran the rule over candidates to plug the gaps in his squad.

It was an opportunity he seized, finding out last week he was in the squad when he got an email while on a bus back from camp.

“I was looking to go to sleep, but after that it was all a bit of a shock,” Bonis said with a laugh.

“(My friends and family) were delighted for me to be fair, because they knew I always wanted to play for my country. It’s a big, massive step. But they’re not even asking how I am, they’re asking how everybody else is. ‘What’s Jonny like? What’s Craig (Cathcart) like?’ But they’re all happy for me.”

O’Neill has already compared Bonis with Blackpool forward Shayne Lavery, himself back in the squad after injury, suggesting he could go to England and make a similar impact despite only turning professional 18 months ago.

“I played with Shayne when I was younger,” said Bonis, recalling their time together at Portadown.

“He was a workhorse. I think everyone agrees if you work hard you’ll get your rewards. I’ve always been told to run the defence riot. If you work hard you’ll get the ball back and then you’ll have a chance.”

Press Association
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