RYAN McGIVERN’S burgeoning partnership with Hibernian captain James McPake hardly kicked off in the most auspicious manner, as the pair endured a torrid 6-0 defeat by a star-studded Netherlands side.
Two goals apiece by Robin van Persie and Ibrahim Afelley, allied to strikes by Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder annihilated Michael O’Neill’s men in Amsterdam as the Dutch warmed up for Euro 2012 in devastating style – while ensuring an international debut to forget for the Easter Road skipper.
While the scars of such a heavy defeat may linger, the encounter did at least allow McPake and McGivern, a Hibs deadline-day loan signing from Manchester City, to develop something of an understanding amid an Oranje onslaught.
Indeed, the pair conferred before the versatile defender decided to take his chances on a move to Leith, and the player was left in no doubt that the move to Edinburgh would be the right one.
McGivern also sought the advice of his international manager, O’Neill, himself a Hibs favourite with over 100 appearances for the Edinburgh club, and a continued resident of the Scottish capital.
“Let’s say you learn a lot playing in games like that, against quality like that”, smiled the 22-year-old, who will be hoping for a rather more docile afternoon as he renews his defensive acquaintance with McPake against Kilmarnock this afternoon.
“I’ve been in a couple of squads with James now and he is a really nice lad and is a big player up here, leading the club as the captain.
“When there was some interest, I asked him about Hibs as a club, and he told me it was a great club and somewhere I would really enjoy playing. That certainly helped make my mind up.
“Last week, when I met up with Northern Ireland, Michael O’Neill also told me he still comes to the Hibs games sometimes, and that’s a real plus. It will help me on the international scene.
“He said it’s a great club, he still lives in the city and he said it’s a great place to stay too. He told me I’ll enjoy it.
“In truth, I didn’t take a lot of convincing. When I had the chance to come up to Hibs and play in the SPL, I jumped at it. I have not experienced this level before and it is something I am really looking forward to.”
In an age of exorbitant excess at Manchester City since the club was bought by the Abu Dhabi United group, youth product McGivern has enjoyed precious little chance to break into the first team, playing just once for the Etihad Stadium outfit.
In a bid for competitive action, he has become a well-travelled soul in the past four years, spending periods on loan with Morecambe, Leicester, Walsall, Crystal Palace and Bristol City.
And he revealed that the seeds for this latest move, which will see him remain at Hibs until January, were sown during Northern Ireland’s August friendly against Mixu Paatelainen’s Finland side.
“The national team got together for a friendly against Finland a couple of weeks ago, and there was some interest back then,” he continued.
“It has taken a bit of time, and it was a bit of a rush on deadline day to get it through. I had hoped to be available for the Celtic match before the international break, but it wasn’t to be.
“I then had to go away with Northern Ireland, and it’s awkward to wait over a week before really getting a session with my new team-mates, but I’m here and ready to go.”
McGivern’s familiarity with the SPL is not limited to Hibees, past and present.
The Newry-born stopper also has a fairly notable insight into this afternoon’s opponents, Kilmarnock, having worked under the intense guidance of Rugby Park boss Kenny Shiels.
The outspoken coach was in charge of the Northern Ireland under-17 setup as the youthful McGivern made his first steps in senior football, playing nine times and scoring two goals at that level.
The Hibs defender is acutely aware of what to expect from Killie, having once been tasked with implementing Shiels’ footballing philosophy, which has not wavered to this day.
“I enjoyed working with him back then and he likes to get his teams to get the ball down and play football,” McGivern added.
“I met him recently at one of the Northern Ireland games. He was over seeing Dean Shiels and I said hello to him.
“It was a long time since I played under Kenny, but even then he always wanted you to play football, and not just go for long ball. He’s always been a good coach and has done really well with Kilmarnock.”