Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn hopes the short trip to Dublin can reinvigorate Northern Ireland as he swaps club football for international duty.
Michael O’Neill’s side travel to the Aviva Stadium on Thursday for an all-Irish friendly before hosting Austria in the Nations League on Sunday.
Consecutive defeats last month have left Northern Ireland, who are without a win in seven competitive matches, bottom of their Nations League group and relegation to the third tier of the new competition appears likely.
But Don McGinn, who returns to the squad after missing the defeats by Austria and Bosnie-Herzegovina last month due to injury, is relishing the chance to play in Dublin.
He said: “I am massively looking forward to it because I have missed the last two games through injury.
“I played the last Nations League match before the last double header and so I am desperate to get back.
“We are playing the Republic of Ireland in Dublin which will be a good occasion and game. We also have Austria at home. All in all they are competitive games and Michael is always looking for wins going into the draw for the Euros in March.”
McGinn’s only previous encounter with the Republic of Ireland was a low-key affair but he expects Thursday’s friendly to be a far more vibrant experience.
He said: “I have only played against them once, in the Nations League in 2011 and there wasn’t really a big crowd there.
“We’ve played Republic of Ireland behind closed doors and this will be the first time for a long time where it will be open to the public.
“It should be a good atmosphere and occasion at the Aviva, which is a lovely stadium with a great pitch.
“It is going to be a tough game but it is one Michael O’Neill will use to bring players into the squad and to have a look at different areas to set us up for another tough game against Austria after that.
“Michael has said he is looking for a good atmosphere, much the same way as the Republic and Northern Irish fans behaved in the Euros. We are hoping for a good atmosphere and if the fans behave the way they did at the Euros then there will be no problems.”
McGinn’s international team-mate Kyle Lafferty is also back in the fold after apologising for his error of judgement which led to him withdrawing from the squad last month which prompted the Irish FA to invoke Fifa’s five-day rule which prevented him from playing for Rangers in his next game.
McGinn is pleased to see Lafferty return.
He said: “He is a real handful for Northern Ireland and has been for a number of years.
“He has been a pivotal player for us and he was a big player for us, with his goals, in getting us to the Euros.
“He is the second all-time leading goalscorer for Northern Ireland and it just shows you his importance. It is good for us to have him back and we know if he is in the team there is a real chance he will score goals.”