Stephen McGinn: Falkirk captain on sibling rivalry, almost retiring twice and passing on his advice to the Bairns' young stars

Falkirk captain Stephen McGinn heads into this afternoon’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle knowing that it is his probably his last shot at Hampden glory.
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The Bairns’ skipper, 34, admits he was ready to hang up his boots long before even joining John McGlynn’s team for a third-tier title tilt in the summer.

During his second spell at St Mirren, he was ready to call it a day twice as he tussled with football, the pandemic and starting a family.

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“Genuinely, there were two occasions (that I was close to quitting), he explained. “One when I got the phone call from St Mirren and we had just a baby. I didn’t know if football was going to resume again, I had no idea what we were doing.

Falkirk captain Stephen McGinn admits he was close to quitting football twice before making his move to the Bairns (Pictures by Michael Gillen)Falkirk captain Stephen McGinn admits he was close to quitting football twice before making his move to the Bairns (Pictures by Michael Gillen)
Falkirk captain Stephen McGinn admits he was close to quitting football twice before making his move to the Bairns (Pictures by Michael Gillen)

“And I thank Jack (Ross) for picking up the phone and giving me the opportunity of a dual role at Hibs, which kept me involved and kept me training and kept my hunger.

“When Gus MacPherson made the call to go to Morton, my genuine first thoughts were if I go there and don’t enjoy it then that will be me.

“Since then I’ve obviously won the league with Kilmarnock and have now got Saturday to look forward to. I’m really thankful I stuck at it.

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“I was disappointed in terms of where I’d rejoined St Mirren and the position the club were in. I didn’t know the call would come.

John McGinn in action for Scotland against Spain at Hampden Park (Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)John McGinn in action for Scotland against Spain at Hampden Park (Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)
John McGinn in action for Scotland against Spain at Hampden Park (Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

“I was disappointed in that and I had just become a father. Hannah was three or four months old.

“So, you’re trying to think sensibly: ‘Look, I’ve lived my dream, I’m happy with my career and where it stands and what I’ve done’. I needed to provide for my family, depending on how the Covid situation looked.

“Thankfully it never worked out as bad as feared and we got football going again in some capacity.”

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McGinn has been a key cog in the Bairns midfield this campaign and he now says this time around at the National Stadium – he’ll be looking to pass on his previous experiences to the squad’s younger players.

"I’ll learn from the last time,” he said. “The last time I went out and thought, ‘I want to soak up the warm-up and the atmosphere and everything, the building and walking out the tunnel’.

“I wanted to soak it all in and then two minutes in Andrius Velicka had scored for Rangers! (back in the 2008 final with St Mirren). “I won’t be doing that this time, I’ll just be trying to do everything I can - everything I normally do - to win a game. Hopefully it goes the right way and I can enjoy the celebrations after it.

"This game’s winnable and everybody just needs to go out and make sure we give it everything we can.

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“It can come down to big moments - missed chances, falling asleep at a corner. We just need to try to get through this game, not switch off, take our chances, and hopefully that will be enough.

"I’ll try to help the younger guys in the team as much as I can on the day.”

McGinn will be backed on the day by his family and brother Paul, who currently plays for Motherwell, while Scotland star John cannot make the match.

The midfielder says the sibling rivalry is still just as strong between the three as it was when they were young.

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“It is pretty strong,” he said. We’re really supportive of each other. The first thing I do when get in is check their results, and I’m desperate for those two or three times a season when we all win on the same day.

“But, with the banter, it’s pretty competitive. If I compare myself to John I’ll be in trouble. He has his moments and Paul and I fight it out!

“He’s disappointed he can’t come because he’s got Man United to prepare for with Aston Villa.

“Paul and his wee boy will come, so I’m looking forward to having their support.

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“I love watching both of them do well. Paul went to Celtic Park last weekend and did well in the first team to take points from Celtic there.

“Everything they do, I don’t think you appreciate in the moment.

“Stuff like the Spain game, beating them and playing at such a level and being such an important player for your country.

“In 10, 15 years I’ll probably look back and think, ‘I didn’t take that in enough’.

“But I’m really proud of what they’re both doing.”