Hibs defender Darren McGregor insists last night’s Edinburgh derby win over Hearts in the Scottish Cup replay is the greatest highlight of his career.
It’s been a long time coming for the 30-year-old. A boyhood Hibs fan, he finally realised a lifelong ambition by helping to beat his side’s nearest rivals after Jason Cummings’ early strike was enough to earn victory.
McGregor was outstanding at the back as Hearts cranked up the pressure in the second half, looking for an elusive equaliser.
Even though the visitors put in a number of tantalising crosses into the area, both McGregor and centre back partner Paul Hanlon remained resolute, and Hibs held out for the win.
After the final whistle, the team did a lap of honour with Sunshine on Leith belting out from both the Easter Road PA system and a joyous sell out crowd.
It is a moment that will live with McGregor the rest of his life.
“The last five minutes were the most nerve-wracking of my career. I spoke to Thommo [Kevin Thomson], and he’s had a longer career than me and he says it’s the most nervous he’s ever been, and I can second that,” said McGregor.
“To have the whole stadium singing Sunshine on Leith, it’s probably the best memory I’ve had in football.
“It’s got to be No.1. For me, being a Hibs fan, in a derby, having won, and in a packed stadium with Sunshine on Leith playing. It was incredible, just incredible.
“I can’t think of anything that eclipses it. Maybe if we go on to do better in the cups it’ll be a better achievement in itself. But as it stands it’s No.1.”
Rather than follow down the well trodden path to stardom like most young footballers, McGregor took a rather unorthodox route to Easter Road.
Having started with Cowdenbeath, McGregor was actually released by the Blue Brazil after a couple of seasons following his break in the first team. He subsequently dropped down into Junior football with Arniston Rangers before returning to become an integral part of the Cowdenbeath side that performed very well under Danny Lennon, moving through the leagues and winning promotion to the First Division.
From there he followed his boss to Paisley after Lennon was made St Mirren manager. He made a strong start to life into the top flight, but his career at St Mirren would be plagued by two cruciate knee injuries. The latter of which kept him out for most of the 2012/13 season, including the club’s League Cup final victory over Hearts.
After his release he signed for Rangers and would wind up the club’s Player of the Year despite a disappointing campaign for the Ibrox club last term. Despite this, he was cast aside when Mark Warburton took over at Ibrox. However, he once again landed on his feet, being granted a free transfer to his boyhood heroes.
McGregor has been well versed in the act of bouncing back. During his time with Arniston and part-time club Cowdenbeath, he worked in Xile Clothing in Princes Mall in Edinburgh, where he would serve some of his current team-mates. He’s certainly come a long way since then, even if there have been a few potholes to navigate past on the way.
“I was just saying to Paul Hanlon, they used to come in and I’d sell them their G-Star jeans,” said McGregor. “To be five, six years on, playing in a derby for a team I’ve supported, beating our rivals, I just can’t put it into words. It really is a dream come true.”
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