Darren McGregor explained that Sunday’s League Cup final defeat left him feeling as if he had let down his family and the Hibs support.
As a boyhood Hibee, born and bred in Leith, the 30-year-old told the Evening News last Friday that beating Ross County in his first cup final would eclipse everything else he had done in his career.
However, when the dust settled at the national stadium, following Ross County’s last-minute winner, McGregor was left instead lamenting his worst moment in the game.
The fact that so many of his friends and family – not to mention 30,000 of his fellow Hibs fans – were there to see it, merely added to the centre-back’s sense of anguish.
“You have all the anticipation and the build-up, with all your friends and family coming along to support you,” he said. “I only had 20 [complimentary] tickets but there were countless others I knew who were there on top of that. My close family were all there and a lot of friends. I had a lot of messages before the game saying ‘bring the cup home’ so I feel like I let every single one of them down. I just feel really low and disappointed.
“It’s so hard to put into words just how much it hurts. I’ve been in among the fans before but I think it feels even worse as a player because you feel like you’ve let the 30,000 who travelled – and maybe another 100,000 watching at home – down.
“Fans will go home, analyse it and a lot of them will be able to get over it. As a player it can stick to you because you know you’ve had an opportunity to imprint your name in the history books. It was a great opportunity to win a first trophy in nine years.”
McGregor explained that the defeat was harder to handle because he felt Hibs were in control of the game. “I thought over the piece we were the better team, and I mean that with no disrespect to Ross County,” he said. “Sometimes you come up against a much better team and you can accept that. Ross County beat us with two goals to one, so you can’t take anything away from them. But we still felt we’d done enough and we hadn’t, which is cruel. To look up and see all those fans disappointed, I can’t put it into words.”
In trying to put it into context, McGregor described the pain of Sunday’s defeat as more gut-wrenching than learning, on two separate occasions, that he had suffered cruciate ligament damage while with previous club St Mirren. “This is bad as anything I’ve experienced,” he said. “It’s probably the worst low I’ve experienced, and that includes two cruciate ligament injuries. I could have sent half of Edinburgh home happy so it weighs heavily on my shoulders.”