Thursday, May 17, 2012
McGowan survives school of hard knocks
By Tom Wald
Young Australian Ryan McGowan will be tossed into the middle of one of soccer's oldest rivalries in Saturday's Scottish FA Cup final at Hampden Park.The first meeting in the title decider between Hearts and cross-town foes Hibernian for 116 years has led to a frenzied build-up this week in Edinburgh.Adding to the huge emotion for the South Australian defender was the surprise arrival of his Scottish father Jamie from Australia for the big match."The Old Firm (rivalry) is the biggest one and that is because of the fan power but the Edinburgh derby is just as fiercely contested," McGowan told AAP."No one quite knows what to expect. It has been more than 100 years since the teams met in the cup final."Hearts and Hibs first clashed in the 1870s with the latter desperate to lift the cup for the first time since 1902.McGowan, 22, has handled his fair share of knocks this season after establishing himself in the senior team.He has suffered a broken nose, a broken hand in two places and seven stitches near his eye from an errant elbow.McGowan said it would be an emotional experience for his boilermaker father to watch him play in the flesh for the first time for Hearts.His brother Dylan, who was loaned out to Gold Coast United last season by Hearts, and his mother will watch the match in the early hours of Sunday morning at the family home in Adelaide's northern suburbs,Ryan McGowan arrived at Hearts in 2006 but was farmed out to Ayr United and Patrick Thistle before breaking through this season and being named the club's young player of the campaign.The Australian U/23 player dismissed a report out of Scotland this month that he was considering turning his back on Australia and playing for his parents' homeland."I was stitched up," he said of the tabloid report.He described himself as "90 per cent Australian" because of his close ties with Scotland.McGowan, who missed out on Australia's 26-man national squad for next month's World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan, received interest from the Scottish federation regarding his national allegiance.However the versatile 1.91m player believed he was not in a position to start expecting a call-up to the Socceroos."I have had a decent season but I think I need another good season to start warranting a place in the squad," he said.He has played mainly as a right-sided full-back this season for Hearts.Australia have depth in that position in the likes of stalwart Luke Wilkshire and youngsters Rhys Williams and Chris Herd.