January signing Matty Kennedy hopes starring for Aberdeen can earn a dream Euro 2020 play-off call up next month.
Capped at every youth level up to U21 for Scotland, the winger switched allegiance to Northern Ireland last year.
Kennedy was born in Dundonald, Northern Ireland, but represented Scotland because his parents are Scots.
Yet to be capped for Northern Ireland, the 25-year-old was an unused substitute in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Netherlands (3-1 loss) and Germany (6-1 loss) late last year.
Northern Ireland will face Bosnia & Herzegovina in the Euro 2020 play-offs in Zenica on Thursday March 26.
If Michael O’Neill’s side win they will face the winners of the other play-off semi-final between Republic of Ireland and Slovakia at Windsor Park, Belfast on Tuesday March 31 for the right to play in the Euros.
Kennedy is desperate to be involved in Northern Ireland’s bid to qualify for a second successive Euro finals.
He said: “I want to be in the Northern Ireland squad and if selected it would be a great honour for me.
“There are a lot of good players in the squad and I am just an up and coming new player to that.
“So I cannot sit here and say I should be in the squad.
“I feel like I have done well since I signed for Aberdeen.
“Hopefully I can get into the Northern Ireland squad and then go on to make my debut.
“However, if not picked, I will just keep doing what I have been for Aberdeen and hopefully that will be enough to get me in.”
Northern Ireland suffered a major blow when manager O’Neill joined Stoke City in November last year. Despite his return to club management, O’Neill confirmed he would remain at the helm of the Northern Ireland squad until the completion of the Euro finals bid.
O’Neill led Northern Ireland to their first-ever Euro finals qualification as group winners in 2016. That achievement was surpassed when Northern Ireland qualified through the group stages to reach the last 16. Kennedy’s Aberdeen team-mate Niall McGinn scored in the 2-0 defeat of Ukraine in the groups to seal a first win for the country in a major tournament since shocking Spain in the 1982 World Cup 34 years previously.
Capped 58 times for his country fellow winger McGinn, 32, is a constant inspiration to Kennedy.
He said: “Obviously Niall is here as well and he has played so many games for Northern Ireland. Niall is in the same position as me so I watch him day in, day out. Hopefully I can learn from Niall and try to get into the Northern Ireland team.
“It is what every player wants, to play international football.”
Former Everton winger Kennedy had initially agreed a pre-contract to join the Dons in the summer for next season.
However, with the Dons struggling in the attacking third McInnes opted to move to secure Kennedy on a permanent contract during the winter window. He penned a three-and-a-half year contract on a £75,000 switch from St Johnstone.
Kennedy netted his first goal for Aberdeen with a header early in extra time of the 4-3 Scottish Cup fifth round replay defeat of Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
He was not available because an ankle knock had ruled him out of St Johnstone’s Scottish Cup defeat of Morton, ensuring he was not cup tied when transferred to Aberdeen.
After delivering his first goal for Aberdeen, the winger has vowed to follow that up with many more – and assists.
He said: “I definitely want to bring goals for Aberdeen. I scored the most goals and had the most assists at St Johnstone before I left for here. I want to bring that to Aberdeen.”
After extra time at Kilmarnock, Kennedy was rested for the 2-1 loss to Ross County. He was introduced in the second half against the Staggies, a loss that saw the Reds lose ground in the race for third. But Kennedy is sure the Dons will land a Europa League qualification spot. He said: “I think we will be third at the end of the season.”