BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
For Dylan McGeouch, the Scottish Cup was too often no more than a rare chance to play first-team football for Celtic – but the midfielder is relishing playing a full part in trying to land the elusive trophy for Hibs.
The 23-year-old was given only fleeting opportunities to shine at Parkhead but played twice against Arbroath in the fourth round three seasons ago, only to then miss out on the rest of the tournament as the Hoops went on to defeat Hibs in the final.
A season earlier, he had featured against Peterhead at the outset of the competition and enjoyed a substitute’s appearance in the semi-final – but watched on in torture as Craig Beattie’s injury-time penalty sealed a shock win for Hearts at Hampden.
Last season, he was back at the national stadium with Hibs but there was more disappointment as he was out-jumped when Craig Sibbald headed Falkirk into the final.
The Bairns’ conquerors in that big day out last May, Inverness Caley Thistle, stand between Hibs and another semi-final appearance this afternoon.
And, despite a nightmare run of three successive defeats in the league, McGeouch is determined the Easter Road men can bounce back – with him to the fore.
With next Sunday’s League Cup final fast approaching, McGeouch said: “You play because you want to be involved in these games at Hampden and Sunday’s a chance to get us back there.
“And if you get into the semis you never know who you’ll come up against or how far you can go.
“I’ve played a big part in the last year or so and I appreciate the chance.
“i was involved in a few cup finals and semis with Celtic but I didn’t play much, maybe the first couple of rounds when there were a lot of changes in the team.
“They were still great memories to be involved with.
“But since I came to Hibs I feel as if I’ve played a big part in what we’ve done and the League Cup final will mean a bit more because I’ve played a part in every round.
“Winning’s winning but you want to feel a part of things, knowing you’ve played the full tournament.
“So, hopefully we can push on over the next week or so.”
Although defeats to Morton, Dumbarton and Queen of the South have ended Hibs’ hopes of challenging Rangers for the Championship title, they have enjoyed more consistency in the cups so far this season.
Victories over Premiership trio Aberdeen, Dundee United and St Johnstone have earned next weekend’s crack at silverware, while a replay win against city rivals Hearts made it four top-flight scalps from four.
Another two in the space of seven days would prevent a promising campaign from falling apart horribly – and McGeouch is convinced Hibs have the strength of character to cope with this week’s pressure.
He added: “Everyone has high expectations of us now that we’ve put a few Premiership teams out of both cups. They’re looking for us to keep it going but we need to find the right mentality if we want that spot in the semis.
“The results this past week haven’t been great for us but it’s a good opportunity to pick ourselves – and the fans – up again.
“It’s a great chance to put ourselves in one semi before we play a final next weekend.
“When you lose you look to bounce back and you’ll not get a better opportunity than a quarter-final and then a final the week after.
“You could look at the down side if you lose but we’re looking at winning both games and getting ourselves back to where we were.”