'He's a warrior': Harry McKirdy wins admiration of Hibs team-mates after heart surgery recovery

Youan in awe of what Londoner has been through at Easter Road
Harry McKirdy came on as a sub in Hibs' 2-2 draw with Motherwell.Harry McKirdy came on as a sub in Hibs' 2-2 draw with Motherwell.
Harry McKirdy came on as a sub in Hibs' 2-2 draw with Motherwell.

Elie Youan may have hogged the Hibs scoresheet against Motherwell – but it was Harry McKirdy who hogged the headlines.

McKirdy made his first appearance of the season since undergoing career-saving heart surgery back in August in the 2-2 draw with the Steelmen, helping Hibs net a stoppage-time equaliser through Youan, who had earlier opened the scoring. The 26-year-old Englishman was a surprise inclusion to the matchday squad by manager Nick Montgomery, with the expectation that he would not be thrust into action until after the winter break. But with Hibs’ squad so threadbare due to injuries and international call-ups, McKirdy was summoned.

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It was a poignant moment for McKirdy, his fellow Hibs players and his boss. Montgomery was visibly moved when talking about the forward’s return from such a major operation and hopes the ex-Swindon Town man can kick on and restart his career. A 2022 summer signing, McKirdy has never really flourished at Hibs but given Montgomery’s rejuvenation of another former fringe man in Jair Tavares, there are hopes the Londoner will make an impact. His recovery from cardiac surgery has certainly impressed his team-mates.

"It was good but I think it is more special for him,” Youan said of McKirdy’s appearance from the bench. “He's been through a lot lately. He's been working hard to come back. I'm happy for him. To be honest, I can't imagine what he has been through. I think he is a warrior. He loves football. When you get through something like this, you have to have the love of football to stay focused on what you do. He is back and I think it is mental, he is a very strong guy. A good guy as well, I'm really happy for him.”

Youan revealed that the players and staff gave McKirdy a round of applause before and after the match, while Montgomery spoke in the dressing room. “The gaffer had some words for him and we were happy for him,” continued Youan. “Even when he came on the pitch the crowd was really kind to him, which is good. I think now he knows everybody is behind him. That gives him the motivation to improve and play for the team.”

McKirdy will jet off to Dubai with the rest of the Hibs squad next week for warm-weather training camp. Given Hibs were missing seven first-team regulars for Tuesday’s game against the Steelmen, fighting back to earn a point was in the end a good result. Hibs do need to regroup and recharge for the second half of the season if they are to trouble the European places but it is clear Montgomery has a committed bunch at his disposal.

"The spirit was top on Tuesday,” said Youan, who nearly came off before scoring the opener due to leg knock. “Everybody stuck together on the pitch, no matter what. We are just looking forward to the next part of the season to improve and to show we can compete for the top of the league. The break comes at a good time. We were missing some players. Against Motherwell we were really together. We wanted to show that the team is 22 players. We are going to the holidays with one strong point.”

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