John McGinn puts Scotland 'kidney punch' behind him as 50th cap marked with 'feisty' win over Ireland

Having recovered from the “kidney punch” of their summer defeats, Scotland were not interested in settling for the bare minimum against the Republic of Ireland, according to John McGinn.

That attitude was rewarded with their second victory in four days and the Scotland captain, who earned his 50th cap, says they now head to Poland for what is “essentially a cup final”, determined to see out their Nations League campaign with another win and seal their position as Group B1 winners.

Two points clear of Ukraine, a draw is all that is needed against their only remaining challengers, but McGinn says the squad’s burgeoning belief means they are striving for more.

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“A draw would have been enough on Saturday night but we wanted to win, keep the confidence up and keep this wee mini streak going,” he said.

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“I know it’s only two wins but that’s what we’ve managed to do in the past, get a run together. But I think we’re building something. We had a blip in the summer which felt a wee bit like a kidney punch but we’re back on the horse and we’re going again.”

It was not the same fluid and dominating display that they had produced against Ukraine on Wednesday but Steve Clarke’s men showed great character to battle back from a 1-0 deficit and triumph in a pulsating contest.

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That midweek win had cranked up the expectation levels and although a bit of a slow burner, the Scots rose to the occasion.

“It was a feisty performance from us. It was a tough, physical game. The same as it always is against Ireland. But we coped a lot better on Saturday night than we did at the Aviva.

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John McGinn celebrates Scotland's victory over Republic of Ireland at Hampden Park on Saturday. Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group

“The second half was a performance that we’ve been used to the past couple of seasons under the gaffer. It was physical but in the end we had the quality to win the game and I think we went out deserved winners.”

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The fact the victory marked McGinn’s half century of caps made it even more momentous.

“It means the world to me. I had my family there, loads of them! You’d probably have seen them dotted about the stadium, people who have been on this journey with me.

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“My mum, my dad, my sister, my brothers, my partner and all my family - they’ve all been there for the ups and downs and there have been plenty of ups and downs. But it certainly makes the downs easier when you have nights like Saturday night. It’s an evening I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

The last two matches have been played in front of capacity Hampden crowds, with Scotland extending their unbeaten run of home games in the Nations League to eight matches. But now they head to Poland for the latest all or nothing tussle with Ukraine.

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“They [the Tartan Army] dragged us over the line. There’s obviously a bit of tiredness. It had been a quick turnover from Wednesday night but they were right behind us and they drove us on. I’m sure in Poland they will be there in their thousands.

“We all know how important Tuesday is. We’re not going to get carried away. We’re looking forward to a big test, which is essentially a cup final.”

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