CELTIC has long been the club of choice for most Irish football fans but perhaps there is another Scottish Premiership team worthy of their backing.

Five of the St Mirren starting line-up that defeated Hamilton 3-0 in the Scottish Cup on Saturday hail from the Republic, with their manager another proud Irishman.

With the national team struggling for form during what has, diplomatically, been called “a transition phase”, boss Stephen Kenny could do a lot worse than visit Paisley and see for himself.

St Mirren manager and former Ireland B cap Jim Goodwin certainly thinks so as he made the case for a call-up for Jamie McGrath.

The 24 year-old from County Meath scored his 12th and 13th goals of a stellar season at the weekend, his first a terrific instinctive lob, the second a clinically-taken penalty.

He remains focused on delivering success to St Mirren but if Kenny were to come knocking on his door he would find a very willing recruit to the Irish cause.

“For every player, the end goal is always to play for your country,” he admitted. “As a kid you want to go and follow in your heroes' footsteps.

"At the moment I want to try and contribute as much as I can to St Mirren, but it is a dream of mine, for sure.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to. I've been in age groups before, I've played in the under 19’s and under 21’s.

"That was amazing, but if the chance came up to play for the senior team and get a senior cap - that would be a dream come true.”

He ranks his goal on Saturday among the best he’s scored for the club at a venue where just two weeks previously St Mirren had blown their chances of making the top six.

This win, McGrath hoped, would go some way to making up for that.

“It was a great goal, up there with the Rangers one as my best ever with the club,” he added.

"It all happened so quickly. Ilkay [Durmus] put a lovely ball through to me and I didn't have much time to think about it. The top corner was the only place I could put it and it was like it was in slow motion.

"I've been trying to score more from open play so hopefully I can keep it up. 

“It was the low of our season the last time we were there. It was the worst moment by far, conceding the way we did so late on.

"It was so sloppy as well, it was our mistake from the free-kick that cost us the top six. That was the biggest kick in the teeth you could get.

"We wanted to make things right and it's a much better feeling now. We have to try and finish seventh and the Scottish Cup is now something we can look forward to as well.

"Seventh is something the club hasn't achieved in a long time and we know we're only a few games from getting back to Hampden again.”

Hamilton, in turn, have only their relegation fight to focus on. But defender Aaron Martin felt they could take considerable comfort from Saturday’s performance if not the result.

“I felt we were the better side with the way we played and moved the ball,” he said. “But we just couldn’t take our chances. That was the only difference.

“We felt an equaliser was going to come as we had a lot of chances. But the ball just wouldn’t go in. Plus their ‘keeper made some unbelievable saves, and quite a few of them. It was just a frustrating day.

“But if we can play like that and stick away our chances then that augurs well for the rest of the season. We just need to stay positive. Our focus is all on the league now and if we can take that performance into the next few games then I think we’ll be fine.”

Manager Brian Rice did not miss the Scottish FA with his comments after the game, believing Hamilton are not getting the rub of the green from referees. Martin agreed.

“It is frustrating. There were probably a few decisions on Saturday that didn’t go our way. I strongly think we should have had a penalty. If that foul happens anywhere else on the pitch it’s a free kick.

“And St Mirren’s penalty at the end….I’m not too sure about that one. But we just have to take it on the chin and move forward.”