Josh Meekings in no mood to ‘pack his gear’ and go home
Amid furore over a missed handball offence against Celtic, the Inverness defender eventually sidestepped a retrospective cup final ban and played in the Hampden Park victory over Falkirk.
The triumph in May, fresh from the previous year’s League Cup final defeat by Aberdeen, amounted to the greatest moment in the Highland club’s history.
Approaching tonight’s Highland derby clash in the League Cup quarter-finals, manager John Hughes suggested any players still basking in the afterglow of that feat should pack their bags.
If Meekings is any measure, though, Hughes should not be concerned. Having starred in two cup finals in his Caley Thistle career, the 23-year-old Englishman clearly craves more.
The former Ipswich Town youth, now in his fifth season in Inverness, said: “If anything, winning the Scottish Cup last season has made us hungry to do something like that again.
“When you go down there to the national stadium, experience the occasion and what it’s like, you want to do it more times than just once.
“It was an unbelievable day last May, so we want to get back there.
“We have had a decent bit of luck in the cups over the years and have done well. It has been a successful time for us, winning one and getting to the League Cup final.
“But all of the lads are the same – we want more. We have to make sure we do our jobs properly on Tuesday because it won’t be easy.”
Caley Thistle have held sway more often than not in the northerly fixture – with 24 wins to Ross County’s 11 since hostilities began in 1994.
Just before the last international break this month, many felt there might be a power shift in evidence.
County’s rebuilding work had been impressive, as had league form since last February’s revival under Jim McIntyre. Inverness, in contrast, were toiling and ravaged by injuries.
Instead, it seemed like business as usual as Hughes’ side won 2-1.
Even so, Meekings insisted: “County are a good side and have been going well in the league.
“The derby is always a great game for the Highlands, the crowd goes up a bit and there’s always a good atmosphere. It’s also a good one for us to have after losing against St Johnstone last weekend.
“We came out of that thinking we could have done more but, instead of dwelling on it for a week, we have a big game to prepare for.
“So, hopefully, we can make amends this midweek and get to a semi-final.
“We have done well in the derbies in recent seasons so always go into them with confidence.
“We won in Dingwall earlier in the season so they will be up for it and keen to get back at us. It’s a one-off game, though, so we just look at ourselves and will do everything to get into the semis. That would help kick-start our season.”
Hughes acknowledges that he is in the midst of the worst spell of injuries he has encountered anywhere as a manager. Excuses, though, hold no stock with him.
Equally, he has been watchful for any hint that fires have been doused by the recent cup success.
Hughes said: “The cups have been good to us in the last few years, but what has happened in the past is history – it is done and dusted now. Winning cups and getting to finals doesn’t make anything any easier the following season. The first thing I said to the players when we came back after the summer was that it was history.
“I said anyone who wanted to rest on their laurels should get their gear and go home.
“If we can win against County and get a semi-final to look forward to, then I would never bet against these guys in any cup competition. But it is up to them to go and do it.”