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Stephen Robinson backs in-form Liam Donnelly for Northern Ireland recall

Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson has tipped Liam Donnelly for a Northern Ireland recall following his red-hot start to the season.

The 23-year-old has hit six goals in his first five starts for the Steelmen – including a brace during Saturday’s 5-2 defeat to Celtic.

Donnelly is his country’s record under-21 cap holder but made his one and only senior appearance against Chile five years ago.

But the midfield convert fell out of the international picture after failing to make the grade at Fulham following his move to London from Dungannon Swifts.

However, Robinson reckons the former Hartlepool and Crawley player’s impressive start for Well is bound to have caught the attention of Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill.

The Fir Park manager said: “Liam is probably knocking on the Northern Ireland squad again if he continues this form.

“Michael O’Neill was at the game on Saturday. Michael doesn’t miss much. Northern Ireland only has a small pool to pick from and if Liam continues to play games, I feel he’ll continue to improve.

“He’s not played a large amount of games in the centre of midfield so he will continue to get better and I’m sure he will be on Michael’s radar for a call-up.

“He’s already had that taste of international action. His career lost its way a little bit and he didn’t get the game time that he needed. This move was to revive his career and we spoke to him about that.

“We told him this could be the last chance saloon. We’ve given him the platform and he’s certainly taken his opportunity so far.”

Robinson admits he has had to take extra care with him ahead of Friday night’s Betfred Cup second round clash with Hearts.

“I’d no doubts about Liam because I’ve worked with him since he was 14 years of age,” said Robinson, who will be without the suspended Jake Carroll and injured Casper Sloth for the all-Ladbrokes Premiership showdown.

“I’d no doubts about his quality or the fact he could play in midfield either.

“Keeping him fit, though, was always the hardest bit. He’s turned up in great condition, he’s got his act together.

“He’s not trained this week because of a niggle but will be back out today. That was more about us taking the foot of the gas with him a little bit but we’re confident he’ll be fit to play against Hearts.”

Robinson revealed he put together an inspirational video capturing Well’s run to both domestic cup finals two seasons back in a bid to fire up his new squad.

Hearts dumped his team out of the competition at the quarter-finals last year and Robinson hopes to avoid a repeat.

He said: “When you get to the quarter-finals and semi-finals at Hampden, these games take care of themselves with the media attention and the stadiums you are playing at.

“But it’s these early rounds that can catch you out. So we did show the video of how we got to the cup finals to the new boys right at the start of the season because these are the games that makes it all possible.

“Tomorrow is another step towards that. It’s a tough test. Perhaps we were unfortunate to get such a tough team when we’ve been seeded.

“But we’ll deal with it and if you want to reach the latter stages you have to beat the stronger teams.”