Light at end of tunnel for Hibs' Kevin McCann

CROCKED Hibs star Kevin McCann could be back in first-team action by the end of the month after finally bringing his two-year injury hell to an end, boss John Hughes revealed today.

The 22-year-old has become the forgotten man of Easter Road after being struck down by tendinosis in his right knee, a condition which has restricted him to just two SPL appearances since February 2008.

Two painful courses of injections failed to cure the problem forcing the young defender to undergo surgery which he was told would sideline him for up to nine months.

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McCann spent weeks alone in the gym of Hibs East Mains Training Centre forcing himself through a gruelling rehabilitation programme which appeared to have paid dividends when he made the starting line-up for the opening game of the season, a 2-1 win over St Mirren.

But since then McCann has been plagued by a succession of setbacks, most notably a nagging hamstring problem, associated with his body readapting to the rigours of top-level football after being idle for so long.

McCann, however, did return, playing against the likes of Shola Ameobi, Nile Ranger and Geremi as Hibs faced Newcastle United in a friendly on Tyneside in the middle of last month.

Sadly, his attempt at a comeback was again hampered, this time by

the freezing weather which wiped out the chance of further "bounce"

games to build up his match fitness.

Now, though, Hughes has his fingers crossed McCann can finally put all those months of torment behind him.

He said: "Kevin has been very unfortunate, he got himself back fit at time of year when the weather has stopped him getting games.

"But he's been training well, getting through the sessions injury free so hopefully he will have a big part to play between now and the end of the season.

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"We had a forty-minute game on the pitch at Easter Road on Thursday and Kevin was getting up and down the pitch no problems at all. I was delighted for him.

He's a fit boy, he leads a good lifestyle and hopefully he just

needs a couple more bounce games before we can call on him

again. But we also have to remember he has been through a lot and

been out for a long time.

"Sometimes it's not so much about fitness and ability but confidence,

realising that you can go for the full 90 minutes again."

Hughes hopes the return of McCann will see him with a full

squad at his disposal as Hibs face the start of the second half of the

season intent on holding onto third place in the SPL table.

Having enjoyed, McCann apart, a virtually injury-free opening few

months, Hughes has had to do without a number of key players at

certain stages.

But, with Kevin McBride apparently over his ankle injury and goalkeeper Graham Stack hoping a second course of injections will have helped ease

his back problem,

Hughes said: "We'd had a good run in terms of

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remaining injury free until just before Christmas but hopefully

everyone will be able to keep themselves fit going into the

second half of the season."

Meanwhile, Hibs' Under-19 side, enjoying a two-week winter

training camp on the Algarve, defeated local side Portomonese

3-1 with goals from David Crawford

(2) and Ross Caldwell.