Hearts and Hibs set for tug of war over winger Niall McGinn

Niall McGinn is a free agent having terminated his contract with South Korean club Gwangju
Niall McGinn is a free agent having terminated his contract with South Korean club Gwangju
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Hearts and Hibs are both competing to sign the Northern Ireland international winger Niall McGinn, the Evening News can reveal.

The 30-year-old is due to hold talks with Tynecastle officials later this month, but he was a guest of Hibs at Easter Road for yesterday’s 2-2 draw with Celtic.

The two Edinburgh clubs are prepared for a tug of war for the former Aberdeen and Celtic player, who is available as a free agent after leaving the South Korean club Gwangju last month.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill and his assistant Austin MacPhee – who is also assistant coach at Hearts – were in attendance at Easter Road yesterday. McGinn arrived accompanied by Hibs head of player identification and recruitment Graeme Mathie.

Afterwards, the Hibs manager Neil Lennon confirmed his desire to sign the player. “We have expressed an interest in McGinn, that’s as far as it’s gone at the minute. He came along to watch the game, hopefully he was pleased with what he saw,” said Lennon.

McGinn plans to speak with Hibs, Hearts and other interested parties before deciding where his future lies. MacPhee knows him well through his role with the Northern Ireland national team and will try to tempt him to Gorgie.

Hearts manager Craig Levein admitted his club’s interest when asked about McGinn last month. “It’s a name that has been mentioned. I’ll need to look at what I can do to create some headroom. There’s loads of stuff going on in the background,” he said. Hearts and Hibs face stern competition, however. Clubs in Scotland and England are keen to bring McGinn back to Britain after his short stint in South Korea.

Former Hearts head coach Ian Cathro tried to sign him during the summer when he ended his five-year spell at Aberdeen, but he chose to continue his career in East Asia. He failed to settle at Gwangju and started only four matches before terminating his contract there several weeks ago.

The Capital clubs’ pursuit of McGinn will evoke memories of last summer when both were keen to sign his Northern Ireland team-mate Kyle Lafferty, the striker opting to join Hearts on a two-year deal.