Lisburn man Johnny McKinstry appointed as Head Coach of FK Kauno Zalgiris

Northern Ireland

It was announced on Friday that Johnny McKinstry has been named as Head Coach of Lithuanian A Lyga club FK Kauno Zalgiris.

McKinstry’s journey in football thus far has been truly fascinating. The Lisburn man began his coaching career with our own Lisburn Distillery before an appointment at youth level with Newcastle United in England. From here from here McKinstry spent time with the famous Right To Dream Academy in Ghana. He continued his academy coaching with NY Red Bulls in America before taking up a role with Craig Bellamy’s Foundation Academy based in Sierra Leone.

A solid knowledge base

Johnny has earned qualifications at the highest level in Europe and America, having completed his UEFA Pro, A and B licenses with the Irish FA, an Academy Manager’s Licence with the English FA and a Premier Diploma with the American association of NSCAA. These are in addition to a number of academical qualifications.

Foray into international management

In April 2013, Johnny took up the role of Head Coach for the Sierra Leone international team, a remarkable appointment given that he was the youngest in-post International Manager at the time at only 27 years old. He led them to their highest ever FIFA World Ranking of 50th, no mean feat for a country that had been as low as 172nd just 7 years earlier.

In March 2015, Johnny was appointed as Head Coach of the Rwanda Men’s International Football Team. McKinstry, again, exceeded expectations by securing Rwanda’s best ever performance in a major competition leading them to the Quarter Finals of the 2016 CAF Nations Championship. He also took Rwanda to finishing as Runners Up in the 2015 CECAFA tournament, a sub-regional competition in East and Central Africa.

Looking to the future

Johnny’s appointment at FK Kauno Zalgiris provides yet another impressive addition for his CV as the young coach’s stock continues to rise. His previous experience at academy level and with International selection will surely benefit him as he seeks to recruit and develop a team capable of challenging in the Lithuanian top flight.

His compatriots continue to impress

It is interesting to see Johnny’s journey through the footballing world develop especially as the eyes of the football world continue to glance over in the direction of Ireland, North and South. The two O’Neills made strong impressions with their qualification for and performances at Euro 2016 in France. Neil Lennon’s return to Scottish football was to see him return Hibs to the Scottish top flight in his first season at the helm. Tommy Wright continues to impress as he led St Johnstone to a third successive fourth place finish in the Scottish Premiership. Closer to home, David Healy impressive first season at Linfield has not gone unnoticed while Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk were unlucky to be eliminated from the Champions League Qualifiers by a strong Rosenborg team.

About the Author

Matt McKay
Glentoran and Northern Ireland fan.