ABERDEEN winger Niall McGinn signed off at Pittodire on Friday evening in current side’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Cup Final opponents Celtic but the Northern Ireland internationalist had some unfinished business to take care of over the next few weeks wearing the red Dons jersey.
That business is all outside of the Granite City. In fact it all takes place in Glasgow starting on Wednesday night at Ibrox when the Premiership Runners-Up, Betfred Cup losing Finalists and this Scottish Cup Finalists take on third placed Rangers looking for revenge for the 3-0 reversal suffered at Pittodrie when the sides last met.
Aberdeen then travel to Firhill on Saturday before having a week to prepare for the Scottish Cup Final against his old club, Celtic. These three games are all McGinn has left of his Aberdeen career before making the move to the English Championship in the summer window.
McGinn’s mind was on Friday’s dramatic match at Pittodrie when he watched helplessly for the first eleven minutes or so as Celtic raced into a 3 goal lead.
“It was a very strange start against Celtic. I don’t think our forward players had touched the ball and we were 3-0 down.
“It’s something we have to learn from and it was a very frustrating one at Pittodrie as well when we lost to Rangers,” the Irishman said.
Rangers’ 3 goals came in a short spell as well, this time at the end of the 90 minutes and it must be a concern for Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes that after losing the opening goal against the Glasgow giants his side have been vulnerable to not one but two additional sucker punches.
Rangers, with their late goals, gave Aberdeen no time at all to do much about it, but on Friday McGinn, Hayes and co set about the thankless task of retrieving something from the match in the remaining 80 minutes against ‘Invincible’ Celtic.
To be fair to the Aberdeen forwards, they certainly gave it a go!
“We need to get on the training ground and work hard defensively, same with attacking.
“We know we’ll be in those situations again when we are under the cosh and we are going to have to defend at the right times, just like we’ll need to take our chances when they come along.”
Aberdeen today learnt that their second place finishing in the Premiership has allowed them to start their Europa League campaign in the second round – Rangers and St Johnstone will be involved from the start so will be effectively operating with little or no time off in the summer.
Mcgann though was still thinking about that start they afforded Celtic.
“We know it’s something we have to learn from and if we are going to make mistakes like that, we are going to get punished against a very good side.
“Once Jonny Hayes got our goal on Friday, we were probably the more creative side.
“When you are going off at half-time 3-1 down and the fans are applauding then you know it’s a different game. It wasn’t the start we wanted but we were the better of the teams after we went 3-0 down.
“At the start of the second half, had we got a second goal we could have had a chance.
“But it will go to the back burner.
Before thinking too much about Hampden, McGinn is looking to do the business at Ibrox – traditionally far from a happy hunting ground for the Dons – and against a Patrick Thistle side who will have just played Celtic on their home patch. McGinn sees the value in registering back to back wins in Glasgow before the big Hampden showdown a week on Saturday.
“There are two games before the Cup Final so if we learn our lessons and also keep improving, we can take confidence into Hampden.
“We know ourselves that if we turn up against anyone and take the chances when we get them, we are match for anyone.
“But it’s true, you do need a wee bit of luck along the way.
“We have done well to get to the final again but we don’t just want to go there and make up the numbers.
“If we are going to perform as we did in the last 80 minutes at Pittodrie, we’ll be a match for Celtic.
“But there are two games to go and we’ll put in on the back burner.
“Ibrox is going to be difficult but it’s a game we look forward to.
“Even when we went there earlier in the season, we had the chances to win the game and unfortunately we didn’t take them.
“These are the games you want to stand you in good stead for the final.
“Playing against Rangers at Ibrox and Partick Thistle at Firhill, who have done really well this season, are two tough away games to finish the season with.
If Aberdeen are to get the 3 points at Ibrox they are going to have to do it without Friday’s goalscorer Jonny Hayes, who was a target for the then Rangers manager Mark Warburton in the January transfer window. When the Ibrox board refused to sanction the £600,000 bid he wished to submit the writing was well and truly on the wall for the current Nottingham Forest manager.
Looking to these two Cup Final warm-ups McGinn reckons that Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes will use them to benefit his Cup Final chances.
“But we really want to use them to our benefit. Maybe the manager can test a couple of things.
“Jonny is suspended for Ibrox which is a blow but we keep working hard.
“I don’t think we owe Rangers one. We just have to go there and put on a good display.
“We should take confidence from our last 80 minutes against Celtic.
“We more or less have second place in the league tied up but we want to keep the season going and finish on a high.”
McGinn may be entering his last couple of weeks as a Don, so how would he like to sign off?
“A Scottish Cup winner’s medal would top off a great stint here. To get that and the trophy in my hands would be unbelievable.”