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Benji Magee On Goalscoring, Winning Awards And Aiming High For The Future

Benji Magee On Goalscoring, Winning Awards And Aiming High For The Future

An interview with Benji Magee, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You recently won the Young Player of the Year in Northern Ireland for a standout campaign with Loughgall in their first season back in the Premiership since 2007. How proud are you of that achievement and of your season as a whole?

“To win such an award was an unbelievable feeling, I didn’t think I was going to win it, to be honest.

“However, it has been an unbelievable season for me and everyone at Loughgall.

“I’ve enjoyed every second of being back playing in the Premiership and for us to be able to challenge for a top six place for large parts of the season was remarkable.”

Your manager at Loughgall, Dean Smith, won manager of the year in Northern Irish football this season. What has he done to get the best out of the team as a whole and to get the best out of you?

“Dean is a fantastic manager who has taught me so much about my game as a striker because he was a striker at Glenavon and Loughgall in his playing days.

“He is able to call on his experience as a player and as a coach, so he has given me a lot of tips and worked hard to help me improve through the game.

“I had a slower start than I would have liked last season before coming good at the end of the season and this year I’ve really pushed on with him as my manager. He’s really helped me out and I enjoy working with him.”

How important was the winning mentality that you developed by winning the Championship and earning promotion last season?

“Winning the Championship taught the squad how to win on a consistent basis and it was a remarkable season, but I think this season has been even better because we are back in the Premiership, and we have competed with every team in the league.

“Looking back, the last two seasons have been unbelievable and I learned a lot from our time in the Championship last year because it is a tough league, the pitches are a lot tighter and you have to think a lot harder whenever you get the ball because the football is played at a hectic intensity.

“Thankfully, my experiences there enabled me to bring strong form into this season.”

What would you pick out as the stand-out moments of this season for the team as a whole?

“For me, there are two games that stand out.

“The game against Champions Larne was a day that many associated with the club will never forget as we won 1-0 and I scored in the 90th minute to cause a massive upset early on into our time back in the topflight. That made a lot of other teams take notice of us.

“I would then have to pick out the game against Newry because I scored my first hat-trick that day which as a forward player is an achievement that you strive for.”

You recently were called into the Northern Irish under-21 set-up. How proud were you to receive that call?

“I was delighted because it was actually my first time ever being involved with a Northern Ireland team.

“I’ve obviously followed Northern Ireland my whole life as a fan so it was a proud moment for me and my family to be in the national team setup.

“Hopefully, I can now kick on from that and strive to one day make a first-team appearance for Northern Ireland at some point in the future because that is what all youngsters dream of growing up following our game.”

There has been a lot of attention and interest in you from clubs in England, Scotland and within the Irish Premiership. How have you handled having lots of interested eyes on you as an individual this season?

“I think that I have handled it well.

“I’m not going to go into too much detail but I know there were a few teams who tried to sign me in January but I never let it distract from my focus of giving my all for Loughgall and for myself.

“Even before those clubs were in for me, I was always focused on staying at the club for the full season and helping the team out as much as I could to repay the faith that the club have shown in me.”

Finally, Benji, what do you hope to achieve in your career in the years to come?

“I owe a lot to Dean Smith and everyone at Loughgall because they have done so much for me in my career, but,  as a footballer you want to push on to the highest level you can possibly okay at and that is my aim in the future.

“I believe in myself that I can do that too so we will see what the future will bring.

“As I said earlier, it would be a dream come true to represent Northern Ireland at senior international level and I know that I’m a wee while away from that standard yet but it is a goal of mine to represent Northern Ireland at first-team men’s level and I am determined to do all that I can to make it a reality one day.”

Featured image courtesy of the Northern Irish Football Writers’ Association