Jackson Irvine hints at longer Hibs stay as he prepares for Dingwall return

Ross County enjoy a major role in Jackson Irvine’s football highlights reel, which is why he retains a soft spot for the Highlands side and wants to see them stave off relegation.

But when it comes to collecting the points needed to do that, he hopes they wait until at least next week to add to the tally.

Returning to Dingwall with current side Hibs this afternoon, a win would allow the third-placed Leith side to build on their advantage over rivals Aberdeen and head into the final pre-split game with a healthy six point gap.

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After two defeats, a victory would also serve to bolster belief as they tackle the concluding six league games, leaving Irvine no room for sentimentality.

Jackson Irvine has fond memories of his time at Ross County but is now focused on delivering a third-place league finish for Hibs. Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group
Jackson Irvine has fond memories of his time at Ross County but is now focused on delivering a third-place league finish for Hibs. Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group

“Of course I would like to see them stay up, yeah! But let them save their results for after the split! We’ll take the win on Saturday.”

It was at County that Irvine was able to get a sustained taste of first team football, heading north on loan after a promising youth career at Celtic.

Eventually signed on a permanent basis, he wrote himself into the history books as a member of the team that earned the club’s first major silverware, beating Hibs to win the 2015/16 League Cup final.

“Domestically, that is probably the highlight of my career,” states the 28 year-old Aussie. “The actual highlight is playing at the World Cup but in terms of club achievements, winning a trophy and the manner in which we did it, even the path to the final itself, coming through a derby, then beating Celtic, and then scoring in the last minute of a final, the whole way it came together, you would do better than to have a better moment than that.

“Obviously to be part of a club winning its first major trophy was very special and it is a lifelong memory.”

Describing the 2018 World Cup with Australia as the overall career high, even the source of that achievement can be traced back to his time at Victoria Park.

“Yeah, it was the thing that pushed me into the national team. During my time at Ross County I was still mainly playing with the under-23s. But I got one call up to the full side before I got my move to Burton in the Championship that summer.

“Since the end of that summer window in 2016 I have been very fortunate, I have been in every Australia squad so [his form at Ross County] was very much the thing that propelled me into having the career I have had and playing at the level I have had.”

And it was all played out against a stunning backdrop.

“All the time when I was down south and here I always tell people that the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I was very lucky to get a chance to live up there and experience it all.

“It was very different, even coming up from Glasgow. I remember getting a phone call from [Ross County owner] Roy MacGregor. I think Derek Adams had just lost his job and Jim McIntyre hadn’t yet been appointed.

“There was no manager and they were bottom of the league with seven or eight defeats from the opening nine games when I got the call to come up on loan. It was a difficult football decision and I was also making a lifestyle adjustment.

“But it was the best thing I ever did. I look back on those decisions and those moments that led to me going on loan then signing permanently in the summer and I’m so thankful for the experiences the club gave me.

“At my age, the fact it was first-team football in the top flight [was the attraction]. At that time, with loan moves, it was difficult to get one in the top leagues. But, I knew I had to be playing regularly at that age and I knew I could go in and be a part of something and build success.

“Of course, after the first season on loan and signing in the summer it was about growing that ambition. We kept the bulk of that squad together from the back end of the season before. It was then about pushing on.”

That strategy is one Hibs are looking to emulate, having tied up many of their first team beyond the summer. Goalkeeper Ofir Marciano has indicated he will not be staying, though, and Irvine is the other key man keeping his cards close to his chest.

“Listen, it’s a conversation to have in a bit. Building into this international break, the fact I am not going away with Australia will give us a bit of time to sit down.

“[When I joined in January] Hibs were probably unsure of the player they were getting with me having been out for ten months but I think we have a good feel for how it’s going now so I think we can start to evaluate where the situation is at and we’ll see what happens.”

But the way this season pans out could be an influencing factor, with the lure of European football through to December still a possibility.

“That’s obviously very attractive for any player to be part of a European campaign. It’s something I have never had a chance to do.

“That comes down to the here and now and us being able to push ourselves into that position.”

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