RYAN MCGIVERN will head to Dingwall on a high after spending Tuesday night putting a damper on Cristiano Ronaldo’s party.
The Hibs defender was one of the stand-out performers against the Real Madrid superstar as Northern Ireland pulled off a shock 1-1 draw in their World Cup qualifier against Portugal in Porto.
Ronaldo – who had received a special presentation in front of 48,000 fans before kick-off in the Dragao Stadium to mark his 100th cap for his country – was desperate to mark the occasion with a goal but was denied by a rock solid display from Michael O’Neill’s plucky outsiders.
A goal from Niall McGinn gave the boys in green a vital lead and they were only denied a famous victory by a late strike from Helder Postiga.
And McGivern admits that the occasion is one that will stick in his memory. He said: “It was a great result. We went there off the back of a disappointing result against Luxembourg and there maybe wasn’t too much expected of us. I don’t think anyone gave us much of a chance of getting a result.
“Everyone outside of the camp, to be fair, would probably have looked at it and thought that it would be a comfortable win for Portugal.
“But we went out there with a game plan to frustrate them and to try to make ourselves hard to beat.
“We ended up getting a good result out of it. It was a big occasion for Ronaldo and I think that he was in a bit of a party mood but thankfully we managed to go there and upset their plans a bit.
“Coming up against Ronaldo is something that I will always remember because, at the end of the day, he is one of the best footballers in the world. He’s up there with the likes of Messi and it was a great experience.
“As a footballer you always want to test yourself against the best in the game and he certainly is that.”
McGivern readily acknowledged that Northern Ireland had gone into the match against a side ranked 114 places above them in the world rankings as huge underdogs. However, at the end of the 90 minutes, the Irish heroes actually felt disappointed that they hadn’t been able to go one better and leave Portugal with all three points.
He continued: “If you had said to me this time last week that we would be disappointed to come away from that game with a draw, I probably would have laughed at you but that is the way that it turned out.
“The lads were all disappointed in the dressing-room after the match but, at the same time, you have got to be realistic about these things.
“To take a point away from a country who are ranked third in the world was a fantastic result for us and it is something for us to build on for the next game against Azerbaijan.”
McGivern heads from the heat of Porto to the biting cold that is expected in the Highlands this weekend as Hibs travel to face Ross County.
The last time that the Hibees played at County’s ground was back in 2010 in the Scottish Cup but, having been held to a draw in the first game at Easter Road, they crashed out of the competition in the replay in Dingwall, leaking two goals in the process.
While McGivern has only been in Scotland for the last couple of months, he already knows that it will take 100 per cent focus and effort if the current Hibs side are to head back down the road with a smile on their faces and three points in the bag.
He continued: “I’m looking forward to getting back to club football, the manager has been involving me and I’ve been enjoying it.
“Hopefully we can start picking up a few points on our travels and keep ourselves up there at the right end of the table.
“I’m enjoying it, there are a great bunch of lads. There’s a great atmosphere about the place and I think that you can see that from the way that we have been playing and the results that we have been getting.
“I watched their last game against Inverness on television and it was obvious that they are a very hard working team who have got some good players who are capable of hurting us on the pitch.
“Every away game in this league is a tough one so we will be going there to hopefully set our stall out and take three points back to Easter Road.”
McGivern has said in the past that he believes Hibs can claim second spot in the SPL this season and he has seen nothing over the last six weeks or so to change his mind on that.
He affirmed: “We have got nothing to fear.
“There’s no reason why we can’t be up there at the end of the season, if we can keep up the form that we have been in.
“We are sitting in second place at the moment and if we can pick up a few points on our travels, as well as maintaining a decent home record, then we’re giving ourselves every chance.”
McGivern is on a loan deal at Hibs from Manchester City which runs out in January and the defender is hoping to leave Fenlon’s side in a healthy position when he heads back to the Etihad at the turn of the year. “I want to play as much football as possible – and also make the team as successful as I possibly can.”