Jamie McGrath thanks St Mirren for taking career to next level and opens up on ‘very tough decision’ to leave

Scoring a brace to help his side topple a then undefeated Rangers side to reach the League Cup semi-finals.

Helping his Buddies end a 31-year hoodoo by comfortably beating Celtic at Parkhead.

Ending a season as the club’s top goalscorer from midfield and earning a first cap for his country as a result.

It’s no surprise that former St Mirren fan favorite Jamie McGrath looks back on his two-year spell in Paisley fondly.

Indeed the affable Irishman admits he still can’t help but smile when he looks back on those two historic victories against the Old Firm last season.

Two standout highlights of a truly incredible personal spell that catapulted him from a relatively unknown League of Ireland prospect to a Scottish Premiership star and fully-fledged Ireland international.

So when McGrath reveals moving to St Mirren was the best thing that’s ever happened to him, it’s not a clever ploy to try and play up to the club’s supporters having left for pastures new.

In fact, it’s hard to argue when he lays out the evidence in black and white.

Speaking exclusively to Renfrewshire Live Sport from his new home in England, McGrath said: “It was honestly very hard to leave.

“There’s such a great family feel about the club and the group is so tight-knit.

“I loved living in Braehead and being so close to the city, while also having the countryside on your doorstep on the other side.

“It was a very tough decision. I owe St Mirren everything because they were the perfect platform for me personally.

“This was my first chance having come away from home and I fell in love with the place. I thought I’d hate leaving home, but it was just seamless moving over.

“I had a chance to go elsewhere when I was a teenager but I didn’t ever go.

“St Mirren are the best thing that ever happened to me because it made me a man, on and off the pitch.

“It was the best platform I could have ever wanted and if people had told me I’d be playing for Ireland so quickly after I moved over I would have laughed at them.

“It just shows that anything’s possible if you work hard enough and people believe in you. We proved that so many times.

“To play and beat Rangers in the cup and Celtic away at Parkhead, these are just amazing memories that I’ll never forget.

“We had it in our heads that we should be beating Celtic that day. Jim had said before the game this was the perfect time to be playing them and we had to take this chance.

“We believed we would do it and Kristian Dennis’ goal is probably the best goal I’ve ever been involved in. We were popping them off the pitch.

“Even when Celtic equalised, I still thought we’d go on and win it and thankfully we did. That was dreamland stuff for us.

“Rangers were unbeaten and to knock them out in the last minute was just ridiculous. They equalized late on and you could see they thought they’d turn us over in extra-time.

“For Conor McCarthy to stick that winner away at death, I’m smiling now just thinking about it.”

Having moved over from Dundalk to try and progress his career in Scotland, McGrath shone almost immediately.

He went on to score an incredible 17 goals in his first full season, notching fearlessly from the penalty spot with consummate ease while also netting regularly from inside and outside the box.

Of course it wasn’t all plain sailing for McGrath during his two-year spell with the Saints.

Along with some historic highs, there were some truly crushing lows. Not least the missing out on the top six last season in the cruelest of fashions – on goal difference alone.

McGrath admits not helping the club finish in the top half during his tenure in Paisley will remain a big regret having left the club halfway through the current campaign with the Buddies again chasing an elusive top half spot.

McGrath said: “Missing out on the top six last season, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so low in football.

“To lose it in the last minute was just heart-breaking. The dressing room after that Hamilton game was just shell-shocked.

“We so deserved to be in the top six that season. We’d played some brilliant stuff but we just ran out of steam just before the split.

“I’m sure we’ll all look back on that with regret because we know we should have got it over the line.

“The boys are flying at the moment and I’ll still be watching them all the time. I really want you to make it happen this time around.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on the boys, but the squad we’ve got now is definitely strong enough.

“The boys have been excellent recently, especially beating Hibs away. That shows the kind of level the club is at now.”

While now focusing on helping his new side Wigan Athletic earn promotion to the English Championship, McGrath insists he’ll never forget the backing he received from the Saints’ faithful throughout his time at the SMISA Stadium.

He also paid tribute to boss Jim Goodwin, who has undoubtedly played a massive role in his development having taken a gamble on signing him from Dundalk.

McGrath said: “It was an amazing two years in Paisley and I honestly loved every minute of it.

“The supporters have been incredible, especially since coming back in after the crowd restrictions lifted.

“Coming back from international duty for the Ross County away game, the traveling support was unreal and that win there was definitely driven by the noise they were making.

“Those are memories that I’ll cherish forever.

“I owe a massive amount to Jim as well. I had the opportunity to go to other clubs initially, but I had a great feeling about working with him after I met him.

“He’s been massive in how the last two years have panned out for me. He’s very respectful of every player and he’s very open about if he’s happy or not with what you’re doing.

“He’s completely fair and we had a lot of chats this season and we’ve always been honest and open with each other.

“I owe him a lot. I wished me well and I want to thank him and the fans for everything they’ve done for me.

“Hopefully it won’t be too long until I’m back up to Paisley for a big game.”

Despite leaving the club for a new challenge, McGrath is surely assured a warm welcome to the stadium when that day comes.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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