Objective achieved. Now, insisted Hibs star Ryan McGivern, he and his team-mates have to clear their heads of all thoughts of their Scottish Cup triumph and focus once again on maintaining their assault on the summit of the SPL.
David Wotherspoon’s goal, a shot which took a wicked deflection off Hearts skipper Marius Zaliukas, fired Pat Fenlon’s side into the last 16 of the competition, but with the fifth round not taking place for almost two months, McGivern believes Hibs have more pressing issues.
So, while their jubilant fans continue to celebrate what was a first Edinburgh derby win in 13 attempts, a run stretching back some 42 months, and one which restored a little pride following their 5-1 mauling by the Jambos in last season’s final at Hampden, the players themselves only have eyes for Saturday’s league clash with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
It’s second against third with Hibs tucked just a point behind leaders Celtic and two ahead of Terry Butcher’s Highland outfit who have taken the SPL by as much surprise as have the Capital club, the sort of encounter which will ensure the full attention of both sets of players who will go into the game in Inverness determined to keep the heat not only on each other but the title favourites.
Whether the prospect of another Highland derby, next Tuesday night’s Scottish Cup fourth-round replay with their closest neighbours Ross County following that pulsating 3-3 draw in Dingwall, proves to be a distraction for Caley remains to be seen but as far as McGivern is concerned any thoughts of cup glory can wait.
“It’s done and dusted,” was the Northern Ireland defender’s assessment of Sunday’s win over Hearts, adding: “The objective before the game was to be in the hat for the next round and that’s what we did. Now the next round is so far away we can forget about it and concentrate on the league games between now and then.”
McGivern insisted, however, that the derby win, coming just days after an equally hard-fought victory against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, had answered those who were suggesting Hibs’ bubble had burst following successive defeats by Dundee and Aberdeen.
And, he declared, they’d shown another side to their game, the ability to “win ugly,” defending resolutely as a team and taking one of the few scoring opportunities to come their way in each of those matches.
Admitting Hibs had ridden their luck at times in both games, the on-loan Manchester City star said: “Right from the start against Hearts it was clear there wasn’t much between the teams and probably for the neutral watching on television it wasn’t the best of games. Football isn’t pretty, but it’s pretty beautiful when you win.
“To be honest, it looked as if the game was heading for a draw and we’d have been disappointed not to have taken our chance at home but ‘D’ came up with a great winner. We kept our league form going although, as against St Johnstone, we never played as much football as we had been doing in previous games.
“But we have shown another side to our play. Perhaps last season we wouldn’t have won them but, as has been said before, this is a totally new Hibs team. In the last two games the 11 players who have started and those who have come off the bench have stood up to be counted. When we have had to defend we have done so as a unit. We’ve dug in and everyone has played their part to ensure we’ve got the right result.
“We’ve ridden our luck a bit at times but these things tend to even themselves out over the course of the season and everyone who came to our match against Aberdeen recently will know we created enough chances to win two or three games. Maybe we haven’t created as much in the two games since, but we’ve got the wins.”
It was Fenlon’s first derby success in five attempts and McGivern insisted the part the Irishman has played in Hibs’ revival shouldn’t be overlooked. He said: “He deserves a lot of credit for what he has done here. He has transformed the side from last season, he’s changed the whole club round and you can see the huge difference he’s made.”
And for a side which has been accused of still shipping too many avoidable goals despite their success, McGivern admitted keeping a cleansheet for the second time in five days was almost as pleasing as seeing Wotherspoon’s effort loop up and over stranded Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald.
While Fenlon’s back four coped with virtually everything Hearts could throw at them, they had goalkeeper Ben Williams to thank for ensuring they remained on level terms during an opening quarter-of-an-hour in which the Jambos dominated, the big No. 1 using his knees to block a point-blank header from Callum Paterson within the first two minutes and then pulling off an instinctive reflex save to push away a Zaliukas header which had crashed off the chest of stand-in Hibs skipper Paul Hanlon.
His heroics followed a stunning double save against Saints, pushing away Nigel Hasselbaink’s penalty and then somehow stopping Liam Craig’s effort from the rebound, paving the way for Paul Cairney to claim the only goal at McDiarmid Park.
McGivern said: “In my opinion Ben is one of the best goalkeepers in the league. He had that double penalty save against St Johnstone and in the euphoria of us winning a lot of people will have forgotten the importance of those saves.
“Hearts definitely had a lot of the ball, used it quite well and had us under pressure but we stood firm, kept a cleansheet, got our goal and that’s all that matters.”
McGivern departed after the match with his left eye beginning to blacken and shut, the victim of a wayward elbow. But while he expects that injury to clear within a couple of days, he knows the grins on the faces of Hibs fans will take longer to disappear. Of his “shiner” he said: “It was a little bit of a nasty one. I caught an elbow but it’s all part and parcel of the game, something I’d take any day of the week for a win and I’m sure it will wear off in a couple of days. It was my first Edinburgh derby and something I really enjoyed. The fans were outstanding, the atmosphere was terrific which always gets the players going – if it doesn’t then you shouldn’t be playing. Twelve games without a win is a long time when it comes to local rivalry so we were all happy just to be able to send our fans home happy this time.”