A week on and Gary Deegan admits he’s replayed his sensational Scottish Cup winner over Aberdeen more than a few times. But he wishes he had a more goals to cherish after emerging as a somewhat unlikely hero last weekend.
It had been almost exactly a year since the midfielder had found the net, scoring Coventry City’s second as they lost 3-2 at home to Ipswich Town, a goal which took his tally for last season to three and his total for the Sky Blues to a mere five.
So shocked were family and friends at seeing his 30-yard rocket beat Dons goalkeeper Jamie Langfield, they bombarded him with calls of congratulation, but now the 25-year-old is gunning for more reasons to celebrate, agreeing he needs to make scoring a far more regular habit.
Describing that strike as the best of his career so far, the Dubliner underlined his determination to fulfil that dream.
“Personally I feel I should be scoring a lot more goals,” he said. “I’d like to think I can chip in with more although I am happy being involved in setting them up.
“The gaffer has been encouraging me and we’ve done a lot of shooting in training so it came off on Sunday. No-one closed me down, it opened up for me so I just hit it. I knew it was in the moment it left my boot, it was a really nice feeling.
“I had family and friends who had seen it on television ringing to ask me where did I pull that one from, probably through shock. But it was nice for them to see me scoring and getting the winner.
“I’ve set myself a little target, I should be scoring more goals as should the other midfielders as it takes the pressure off Leigh Griffiths and Eoin Doyle.”
Deegan, however, found team-mate Ben Williams stealing his thunder, the goalkeeper capping a stunning performance as Aberdeen pounded forward in search of an equaliser by saving a late penalty from Dons striker Scott Vernon, his second spot-kick stop against the Dons in the space of a week and his fourth of the season in total.
But, he insisted, he wasn’t in the slightest bothered at seeing Williams hog the headlines when, on another day, they’d have been about his goal. He said: “It’s not about me, I went straight over to Ben to give him a big high five because he has been brilliant. Not just last weekend, but all season he’s been making some crucial penalty saves.
“It was a big result for us to get through in the Cup, it keeps the season ticking over. Our form hadn’t been great going into the game but we did fancy ourselves. It was a bit cagey for the first 45 minutes but we settled in the second and it was nice to keep going through the rounds, getting closer to Hampden.”
Having seen his shot clip the underside of Langfield’s bar before nestling in the net, Deegan made a bee-line for the home dug-out to seek out Pat Fenlon as a mark of appreciation for what his manager had done for him over the course of a troubled few months in which he was laid low by a broken jaw suffered during an early morning incident outside a George Street nightclub.
The boisterous melee which ensued among the jubilant Hibs team saw Fenlon’s spectacles knocked off his face although, thankfully, they weren’t broken. Deegan, who Fenlon signed for Bohemians when he was in charge of the Irish club where the player won two league titles, said: “I owe the manger a lot. He gave me my first start in professional football back home and he brought me here after a difficult period in England.
“And then throughout my jaw injury he was great, he came to the hospital and to the house. It’s really good to know he is behind you.”
Fenlon has expressed his feelings of guilt for what happened to Deegan in early October having persuaded him to sign a one-year deal with Hibs but, as far as the player is concerned, he had no need to do so.
Insisting he hadn’t regretted for a single second his decision to move to Edinburgh, he said: “It could have happened to anyone. These incidents happen, unfortunately. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time but you cannot look back on things and think ifs and buts. It happened and you have to get over it.
“I feel at home here, I like the place, I love the city, I love where I live, my wife likes it here, the dogs like it here so we are settled.”
Is he, though, settled enough to consider extending his contract beyond the end of this season? His name has been mentioned by Fenlon as one of those he’d like to see remain at Easter Road as he sets about building for the long term with Scott Robertson having already arrived on and a two-and-a-half year contract and St Johnstone’s Liam Craig due to arrive in the summer for the following two seasons.
Revealing he believes the club is “moving in the right direction” under Fenlon, Deegan said: “Nothing has been talked about as such. I am just concentrating on my football and doing well for Hibs.
“Come the end of the season we can sit down and discuss things.”