Andrew Christie, Misery Hunters podcast
There hasn’t been a great deal for Northern Ireland to shout about of late, but one bright spark of the latest international break has undoubtedly been St Mirren’s Conor McMenamin.
Despite his side’s 4-2 defeat to Slovenia, McMenamin oozed class on just his seventh cap. The former Glentoran man shone on the right wing, combining well with fellow Premiership player Matty Kennedy to create NI’s first goal, and receiving the man of the match award.
While the subsequent 1-0 defeat to Kazakhstan was a humbling learning experience for the winger (*remembers in cringing but not unsmug Scottish*), McMenamin has rightly won a lot of admirers as he continues to go from strength to strength for club and country.
For many, keeping a hold of Australia pair Keanu Baccus and Ryan Strain was St Mirren's best business this summer, and seeing the pair receive their international call-ups was testament to their rising stock in the game.
Baccus spent 88 minutes in the heart of the Socceroos midfield in a 2-2 draw with Mexico. Despite a frustrating scoreline, the Saints man remained composed and diligent in the face of a strong El Tri press.
The former Western Sydney Wanderer was unfortunate to concede a penalty for a 54th-minute handball but was relieved to see it subsequently missed. Another impressive showing for the much-talked-about midfielder.
Socceroos boss Graham Arnold’s campaign against Paisley continued with defender Strain again receiving zero minutes, with Hearts’ Nathaniel Atkinson preferred in the right-back role.
On the bright side, Saints’ most important player returns injury-free, with international camp experience under his belt and, no doubt, some excellent in-flight film/podcast recommendations. A true-crime podcast on the nature of the kompromat Atkinson has on his Aussie gaffer, perhaps?
Cyprus manager Temuri Ketsbaia elected not to start Alex Gogic for Scotland’s visit to Larnaca, instead using the Saints stalwart as an 80th-minute substitute.
Now, I say this as a man fearfully remembering the Cyprus boss’ 1998 run-in with a St James’ Park advertising board, but the score without Gogic on the park? 3-0 Scotland. Score with him there? 0-0. Come on Temuri, man.
Cyprus face Spain this evening, so it’s safe to assume the Saints man will have at least three diminutive La Masia graduates in a headlock.