BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
John McGinn is desperate to ensure there is no repeat of the stuttering start to last season when Hibernian kick off their Championship campaign against Falkirk.
The capital club were left playing catch-up after posting two defeats from their opening three league matches, suffering a chastening 2-1 defeat at Dumbarton the opening day before a 1-0 reverse against Rangers.
Hibs’ early travails were played out against a backdrop of the Scott Allan saga, with the club desperate not to sell their star man to the Gers – their title rivals – before he ultimately departed for Celtic.
The Easter Road outfit did manage to claw back the deficit before a nightmare period in February and March allowed Rangers to run away with the Championship title. However, McGinn is determined to put down a ‘marker’ from the outset this season.
He recalled: “There was an awful lot going on when we started last season – I had only signed that week and there was a lot of attention on other things.
“I came off the bench against Dumbarton and I remember it was a real dampener. It wasn’t the way we wanted to start the season.
“We had to chase the pack and bounce back from that.
“If we can turn the tables and get a head start on the rest of the teams early doors, then that could be really important. We want to go to Falkirk and put a marker down with those three points.”
Hibs’ clashes with Falkirk were feisty affairs last term, with former Easter Road boss Alan Stubbs repeatedly finding himself embroiled in mind-games with his Bairns counter-part Peter Houston.
On the pitch, there was barely anything to separate the sides, with four draws, a Hibs win and a Falkirk triumph from their six encounters. Falkirk did, however, finish above Hibs in the league and eliminate them from the playoffs.
McGinn found himself at the centre of attention during two of the more fiery fixtures, going to ground easily under a challenge from Blair Alston to win the penalty which secured a 1-0 victory last October.
Houston then issued an apology to the Scotland internationalist after accusing him of ‘going down easily’ in a subsequent 1-1 draw in January despite clear contact from Luke Leahy.
After a string of tempestuous, tight clashes, McGinn is ready for more of the same.
He continued: “It will be a really tough game, we know that. They are a good side and, after the rivalry last season, there will obviously be that extra edge to the game.
“They held their own against us last season and Falkirk was a really difficult place to go, just like they found Easter Road a tough venue. I’m sure it will be another tight game because they have some very good players.
“The manager over there always has them well organised and determined so we are not going there assuming we will win – we are going there knowing that we will need to work hard for the victory and really earn it.”
The trip to Falkirk will represent McGinn’s first competitive outing since missing the penalty kick which sent the Hibees out of the Europa League against Brondby.
Neil Lennon’s side were magnificent over two legs, and claimed a memorable 1-0 triumph in Copenhagen to wipe out the deficit from the first-leg. However, McGinn saw his effort from 12 yards saved and the Danish side progressed 5-3 on penalties.
Despite admitting following the match that it was the worst moment of his career, the former St Mirren star insists he is over the heartbreak thanks to the support of his teammates and management staff.
McGinn added: “My teammates and coaches have been really important and supportive.
“They were quick to say ‘forget about it, it has happened’. I’ve got the spring back in my step. It is still disappointing but there is nothing I can do about it now, it’s in the past.
“It only makes me more determined to get back into Europe and be successful. You’ve got to be in the competition to have those moments. I would much rather be in Europe and suffering something like that, than not be involved at all.
“That experience, at my age, and bouncing back from it can only be good.”