Paul McGinn speaks on impressing new manager, struggles as a kid, and why it's time Hibs won another trophy
If life had panned out differently for Paul McGinn, he might already have a League Cup winner’s medal in his possession from his time at St Mirren. But football doesn’t always go according to plan.
The defender joined St Mirren in September 2012 but was unable to play in the then SPL until January 2013 due to his registration as an amateur so was watching from the terraces as the Buddies defeated Hearts 3-2 in an enthralling final.
“The day before I could play for St Mirren they went and beat Celtic in the semi-final. At that point I was thinking, ‘I better go on loan then’,” McGinn recalls.
“There was no way I was getting in that team. But the final was a good day – and a good night out too. I was next to Darren McGregor in the stand as he had a bad injury at the time.
“It was 90 minutes of nerves; a mad game. There wasn’t much defending on show, but it was great.”
McGinn has taken a somewhat circuitous route to the top of Scottish football, starting out with Queen’s Park before moving on to St Mirren in 2012. A loan return to the Spiders followed and he saw out the 2012/13 season on loan at Dumbarton before joining the Sons permanently.
Spells at Dundee, Chesterfield, and Partick Thistle came after before his return to Paisley in 2018 and subsequent move to Hibs in January 2020. The journey has been meandering, but all the more worthwhile for the reliable 31-year-old.
“Going to Dumbarton is not something I look back on and regret. At that point St Mirren were playing really well and that made the decision easy,” he explains.
“I always trusted I could get to this stage so there are no regrets.
“I did it the hard way. If you look back to 14-15 years old, if you had more belief in yourself you’d maybe start higher up the tree but it might not have worked out for me that way.
“Thankfully I got myself to the top of the Scottish game and hopefully I stay here for a bit longer.”
It wasn’t straightforward either, with all three of the footballing siblings remaining wee until their mid-teens.
“There was a perception that all the McGinns were too small until late on and that’s frowned upon in this country,” McGinn adds.
“We were small until we were 16 which doesn’t help and then you get growing pains and stuff like that. John went through the same thing. He wasn’t playing or they were trying to make him a left-back all that kind of stuff.
“Luckily the odd one or two had faith in him and that’s been rewarded now.”
McGinn might not have the honours of his younger brother, whom he expects to be cheering on Hibs from the stand come Sunday, but he’s keen to change that this weekend.
“A winners’ medal would make it a really good year after a tough time of late. That would be nice,” he agrees.
A lot of the time the teams I was at before were fighting for survival. At Hibs it’s about time we won one. Our record should be a lot better.
“This is the sort of club that should give you the platform. We have been sniffing around cups for a while. We are good at getting to finals but now it’s about winning one.”
Quite. After reaching the latter stages of both cup competitions last season but finishing the season empty-handed, the onus is on Hibs to prove that they can go one further.
“We were clinical against Rangers in the big moments and that’s what’s needed again. Even in the game against Rangers a week later we weren’t clinical and you end up on the wrong side of a beating,” McGinn states.
“If you get a chance, you need to take it – that’s always the case when you are playing the mega-money clubs.
“Maybe the fans being back helped us in the semi; the Rangers fans started getting frustrated and stuff like that. We knew we’d give them a game.”
Hibs will need to channel the same energy they produced in the semi-final when they go toe-to-toe with Celtic on Sunday at the national stadium. Ange Postecoglou’s side may be without some key players including Portuguese winger Jota, but while McGinn expects an open game with plenty of chances, he knows the Hoops will pose a stern test no matter who lines up.
“They have such a strong squad that they still churn out wins. Don’t get me wrong, we’d rather Kyogo Furuhashi maybe doesn’t make it, but they are bringing in boys that are going for millions as back-up so we know it will be tough regardless,” he continues.
“They are very entertaining to watch. It’s gung-ho and when the chances come we need to take them to give us a platform.
"Maybe it’s better for us defenders that it’s not strike, channel, and deal with that over your shoulder. We are quite a good side on the counter. It might suit us.”
There’s also a very good chance the new manager will be watching on too…
“Absolutely. I’m sure the new manager will have different ideas so the players will have to show they can adapt to certain things. A cup final is pretty much that as we will need to adapt to many instances. Everyone will be playing for their place.”