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Ex-League of Ireland duo in line for Scottish Premiership debuts tonight at Ibrox

Conor McCarthy and Jamie McGrath will hope to be involved for St Mirren in their game against Rangers.

Conor McCarthy and Jamie McGrath joined St Mirren from Cork City and Dundalk respectively.
Conor McCarthy and Jamie McGrath joined St Mirren from Cork City and Dundalk respectively.
Image: INPHO

THERE’S A POTENTIALLY big evening ahead for two players who have said farewell to the League of Ireland since the 2019 season concluded.

They were once rivals during their time at Cork City and Dundalk respectively, but Conor McCarthy and Jamie McGrath are now team-mates at St Mirren.

Earlier this month, the pair were signed by the Scottish Premiership club, who are managed by once-capped ex-Ireland international Jim Goodwin.

Both players debuted for their new club on Saturday. McCarthy started at centre-back and midfielder McGrath was introduced after an hour of a 3-0 Scottish Cup win at home to non-league outfit Broxburn Athletic.

However, St Mirren are in for a much sterner test this evening. On the back of the winter break, Scottish Premiership action resumes for Goodwin’s side with a trip to Ibrox to face Rangers.

While St Mirren are only a point clear of relegation danger in 10th, Rangers are well-placed in second. Although they trail Old Firm rivals Celtic by two points, Steven Gerrard’s side have the advantage of a game in hand to come.

“I had a wall full of Steven Gerrard photos growing up, he was my idol since I was about four or five,” McGrath told The42 after completing his move to St Mirren.

The 23-year-old Meath native joined Dundalk from St Patrick’s Athletic in 2017. He won two Premier Division titles, one FAI Cup and two League Cups during his three seasons at Oriel Park. McGrath was also named PFAI Young Player of the Year in 2018.

rangers-v-celtic-ladbrokes-scottish-premiership-ibrox-stadium Rangers manager Steven Gerrard issues instructions from the touchline at Ibrox. Source: Andrew Milligan

Of the prospect of facing a team managed by a Liverpool legend at a ground with a 50,000 capacity, the ex-Ireland U21 international added: “Playing against a team managed by Stevie G is only a perk. Inside I might be dying to get a photo but I’m not there as a fan.

“It’s funny to think he might be discussing me now when he’d be doing opposition analysis, but you can’t be overawed by that. If you let that swallow you up and get the better of you, you won’t be able to perform. And I want to show what I can do here.”

McCarthy was signed by St Mirren as a replacement for Sean McLoughlin, his former defensive partner at Cork City. Having impressed while on loan in Scotland, McLoughlin was recently recalled by parent club Hull City.

A 21-year-old central defender who can also play at right-back, McCarthy was Cork City’s Player of the Year in 2019 and captained his hometown club in the latter stages of the campaign. 

“It would be amazing to make my debut at Ibrox,” McCarthy — who played three times for Cork City in Europe — told the Daily Record. “Being able to test myself against European-standard players already will only help me going into games against the big boys.”

Having started his managerial career at Alloa Athletic, Jim Goodwin took over at St Mirren last summer. The Buddies have been on a decent run of form since early December, with their only defeat in their last six games being dealt by Celtic.

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st-mirren-press-conference-simple-digital-arena St Mirren are managed by Irishman Jim Goodwin. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

“This season, our objectives before a ball is kicked were similar to about seven other teams, which is retaining our top-flight status,” the 38-year-old Waterford man explained in an interview with The42 published last week.

“But with the infrastructure and support – our fans are incredible with five or six thousand at home games and we bring at least a thousand to away games, which is quite incredible for a town the size of Paisley.

“We’re never going to be able to compete with Celtic and Rangers but I genuinely believe if you make the best from what’s available and get the right people in the building – people with the same drive and motivation as myself – and have a little bit of a dream, then we are capable of forcing our way to the top half of the table.

“That has to be our main goal. Whether it happens this year or not remains to be seen. We’re still in with a fighting chance.”

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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