Johnny McKinstry, Football Coach

Coach McKinstry is a UEFA Pro Coach and Professional football manager, with experience of coaching in Africa, America and Europe. 

As Head Coach of the Rwanda National Football Team Coach McKinstry led Rwanda to new heights - securing Rwanda’s best ever performance in a major competition (Quarter-Finals of the 2016 CAF Nations Championship); finishing runner up in CECAFA 2015 (being named 'Coach of the Tournament' for his efforts).

He also secured Rwanda’s biggest ever victory in FIFA or CAF qualifying (5-0 vs Mauritius); securing Rwanda’s first competitive away win in 4 years (vs Mozambique, AFCON qualifying); and placing Rwanda second in AFCON 2017 group qualifying with 6 points (both achievements having only been once before bettered in Rwanda’s history - in 2004).

Prior to that, he was Head Coach of the Sierra Leone National Men's Football team from April 2013 - September 2014, at that time the youngest active Head Coach in international football (at only 27 years of age).  

Within just 16 months (August 2014) Coach McKinstry had led Sierra Lone to their highest ever FIFA World and African rankings - 7th in Africa and 50th in the World - both well above their lowest ever ranking of 172 in 2007, an achievement hailed by as "remarkable"

From Jan 2010 - Dec 2014 he set up and developed the Craig Bellamy Elite Soccer Academy - placing elite young players in Europe, Asia and North America.


Coach McKinstry is qualified at the highest level in Europe and America, holding the EUFA Pro license (Irish FA); an Academy Managers' Licence (English FA); Premier Diploma (NSCAA); and UEFA 'A' & 'B' Coaching Licences (IFA) as well as a range of other academic and professional qualifications.

He has been named as 'UK Grassroots Coach of the Year' by Manchester United FC for his work within the football industry and has been recognised nationally in the field of 'Outstanding Team Motivation' for his role in developing and preparing athletes for competition. 

Coach McKinstry has extensive experience of coaching in Europe, North America and Africa.  Over the past decade, he has led numerous teams to league and cup success.  He has also established and ensured the continuous professional development of a national network of football scouts / coaches.


Professional Honours

  • 2015 - CECAFA 2015: 'Coach of the Tournament'
  • 2015 - CECAFA 2015: Finalists and runners-up (Rwanda) 
  • 2014 - FIFA World Ranking Record (Record position for Sierra Leone - 50th in World / 7th in Africa)
  • 2014 - Sport NI High Performance Coach of the Year Nominee
  • 2010 - Nike Premier Cup African Champions
  • 2007 - Lucozade Sport Coach of the Year, Runner-up (In recognition of 'Outstanding Team Motivation')
  • 2007 - 'Team of the Year' - Sport Northumbria
  • 2007 - League Champions - Northumbria League
  • 2007 - National Cup Winners - British Universities
  • 2007 - League Champions - British Universities (Northern Conference)
  • 2006 - UK Grassroots Coach of the Year (Awarded by Manchester United FC)
  • 2006 - League Champions - British Universities (Northern Conference)


  • 2015 - Postgraduate Certificate in Performance Coaching (UK)
  • 2007 - BSc. (HONS) Applied Sport Science with Coaching (UK)

Professional Certification

  • 2016 - UEFA Pro Licence (Irish FA)
  • 2013 - Academy Managers' Licence (English FA)
  • 2012 - Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma (Coerver Ireland)
  • 2011 - Premier Diploma (NSCAA - USA)
  • 2009 - UEFA 'A' Coaching Licence (Irish FA)
  • 2009 - National Goalkeeping Diploma (NSCAA - USA)
  • 2008 - National Youth Diploma (NSCAA - USA)
  • 2006 - FA Teaching Certificate (English FA)
  • 2004 - S.A.Q. Level 1 (S.A.Q. Ireland)

Employment History

  • International Manager / Head Coach, Rwanda (Mar 2015 - Aug 2016), Rwanda Football Federation (FERWAFA)
  • International Manager / Head Coach, Sierra Leone (Apr 2013 - Sep 2014), Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA)
  • Academy Manager (Jan 2012 - Dec 2014), Craig Bellamy Foundation Academy, Sierra Leone
  • Technical Director (Jan 2010 - Dec 2011), Craig Bellamy Foundation Academy, Sierra Leone
  • Interim Head Coach (Jan 2010 - Aug 2010), Right to Dream Football Academy, Ghana
  • Pre-Academy Coach (Sep 2007 - Nov 2009), New York Red Bulls, USA
  • First Team Coach (Dec 2007 - Mar 2008), Lurgan Football Club, Ireland
  • Performance Soccer Coach (Sep 2005 - May 2007), University of Northumbria, England
  • Academy Coach (Aug 2006 - Sep 2006), Right to Dream Football Academy, Ghana
  • Player Development Officer (Sep 2004 - Aug 2006), Newcastle United FC, England
  • U16 Head Coach (Sep 2004 - May 2006), Felling Magpies FC, England
  • Community Soccer Coach (July 2002 - Aug 2004), Lisburn Distillery FC, Ireland.



Career Summary (CV) 

Download Coach McKinstry's Career Summary (CV) in pdf format

JMcK CareerProfile 2017 800




Coach McKinstry celebrates as the Leone Stars move ahead against Tunisia [Sierra Leone vs Tunisia June 2013 (Pic: Darren McKinstry)]



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About Coach McKinstry

Coach McKinstry is a UEFA Pro Licensed Football Coach.  He is currently Head Coach of the Uganda National Team - the Uganda 'Cranes'.   By December 2019, after only 3 months in charge, Uganda had won CECAFA 2019; were sitting top of their AFCON qualification group; and had secured 9 wins and 1 draw from 10 games.

He was International Manager and Head Coach of the Rwanda National Football Team (2015-16). Within just 17 months he led Rwanda to a number of highs - including their first ever appearance in the knockout stages of a major international tournament (Quarter-finals of CHAN, Jan 2016) and finished runner-up in CECAFA (Dec 2105), being named 'Coach of the Tournament' for his efforts. 

He was Head Coach of the Sierra Leone National Men's Football team (2013-14). Within just over a year, he had led Sierra Leone to their highest ever FIFA World and African rankings - 7th in Africa and 50th in the World (August 2014).  He was Head Coach of Saif Sporting Club, Bangladesh Premier League (2018-19); and FK Kauno Zalgiris, Lithuanian A-Lyga (2017-18).  He is a European (UEFA), American (NSCAA) and university qualified football coach. 

Coach McKinstry is a member of 'Common Goal'. Together members seek to support high-impact organisations that harness the power of football to advance the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Quotes: What the media say

  • If one day, McKinstry reaches the very pinnacle of the game, few could begrudge him his day in the sun... no one could say he hasn’t earned it.

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    Daily Mirror
  • It stands testament to his adaptability, hunger and talent ... that McKinstry has tamed the toughest challenges and risen to become one of the best young managers in football today.

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    These Football Times
  • Leone Stars shine with purpose... what is even more remarkable is what the young Northern Irishman has done ... the Leone Stars are ranked 50th in the world and seventh in Africa – higher than they have ever been.

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