McGinn on a mis­sion for Saints

The el­dest in trio of foot­balling broth­ers says he’s de­ter­mined to end his long wait for a tro­phy in the Irn-Bru Cup fi­nal. By Graeme Macpher­son

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 SPORT -

STEPHEN McGinn Snr was said to have been a de­cent foot­baller in his day but never made a ca­reer in the game. His wife Mary still plays net­ball so­cially, as does their daugh­ter Katie. It speaks to an ac­tive fam­ily, if not one of out­stand­ing sport­ing pedi­gree. Which makes the fact that all three of their sons made it as pro­fes­sional foot­ballers all the more re­mark­able.

Stephen Jnr, Paul and John McGinn are not the first trio of sib­lings to forge a path in the game – the McLeans blazed that trail in the 1960s be­fore the Wallace tri­umvi­rate emerged at Southamp­ton two decades later – but it re­mains a rare enough feat.

All will be stripped for ac­tion next week­end – Paul, the mid­dle brother, for Ch­ester­field at home to Rochdale in League One, John, the youngest, could fea­ture for Scot­land in their World Cup qual­i­fier against Slove­nia, while Stephen, the el­dest of the three, will lead out St Mir­ren in their Irn-Bru Cup fi­nal ap­pear­ance against Dundee United.

“We are a close fam­ily,” re­veals Stephen over a cof­fee in a café near St Mir­ren’s train­ing ground in the Ral­ston area of Pais­ley. “But it wasn’t like we were three ex­tremely tal­ented or blessed kids who were def­i­nitely go­ing to make it.

“Cer­tainly Paul and I had to work re­ally hard for ev­ery­thing that we’ve achieved. By all ac­counts my dad and un­cles were good play­ers al­though none played pro­fes­sion­ally. My sis­ter and my mum both play net­ball. So I don’t know if it’s the genes or just be­cause we’re three boys who used to play foot­ball all the time as kids.

“I think hav­ing two broth­ers in the game brings the best out in each other. Even when I played against John re­cently, I wanted to take him on as he’s a Scot­land player and I wanted to prove I’m as good as him. We’ll all go and watch the oth­ers play­ing if we can. And we’re not daft. I might come off the park af­ter a game and say, ‘I was rub­bish’ and John or Paul will say, ‘aye, you were’. That spurs you on but it also keeps you grounded.”

Stephen smiles as he notes he was “com­pletely jeal­ous” of John when he won the League Cup with St Mir­ren in 2013 and then the Scot­tish Cup with Hibs last sum­mer. In truth, he could not be more com­pli­men­tary of his lit­tle brother who, at 22, is six years his ju­nior.

“I’m com­pletely bi­ased but I can’t be­lieve Celtic haven’t come in for John as yet,” he of­fers. There are teams from Eng­land start­ing to show an in­ter­est in him. “He’s in no rush to leave Hibs but the pin­na­cle for any young Scot­tish player just now is to play for Celtic or in the English Pre­mier League. If John doesn’t get to one of those lev­els I don’t think he’ll have done him­self jus­tice.”

It could be said, too, that Stephen is play­ing be­low his ca­pa­bil­i­ties hav­ing re­turned to St Mir­ren in Jan­uary af­ter spend­ing the best part of the last seven years in Eng­land, lat­terly with Wy­combe Wan­der­ers.

Rooted to the foot of the Cham­pi­onship, his agent strongly ad­vised against the move. But the chance to be re­united with man­ager Jack Ross – a for­mer team­mate – and the lure of re­turn­ing to a club he feels pas­sion­ately about – proved too strong to turn down.

“I wouldn’t have come back for any other team,” he adds. “I did won­der if I was sign­ing up for a sink­ing ship. But the man­ager is some­one I trust. I thought highly of him be­fore as a player and a team­mate, and then when he went into coach­ing he had my brother Paul at Dum­bar­ton and he raved about him.

“Plus it was St Mir­ren. I was talk­ing to my dad the other day about how it has been such a big part of our lives for at least 15 years now. You start to de­velop a real feel­ing for a club. We weren’t boy­hood St Mir­ren sup­port­ers but I’d say now I’m a St Mir­ren fan. I’d love to be re­mem­bered as the cap­tain that led us to the great es­cape.”

McGinn was still wait­ing to make his de­but when St Mir­ren last won the Chal­lenge Cup in 2005, and had just left for Wat­ford when the Pais­ley side reached and lost the 2010 League Cup fi­nal to Rangers. It is why he is treat­ing this fi­nal – his first at se­nior level – with the se­ri­ous­ness he feels it mer­its.

“When I came back to the club there were two chal­lenges set: can you stay in the league? And can you win the cup? And those are still the ob­jec­tives. If I could finish the sea­son with the cup and hav­ing stayed up these would be the proud­est months of my ca­reer.”

If I could finish the sea­son with the cup and hav­ing stayed up these would be the proud­est months of my ca­reer

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