Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Northern Ireland v Finland: McPake still hungry after Dutch demolition

James McPake aims to grab his chance

After making his Northern Ireland debut in the 6-0 drubbing against Holland, James McPake won’t be gripped by fear on the international stage.

Following his baptism of fire in the Amsterdam Arena, the Hibernian skipper is entitled to remain ice cool about his future prospects under Michael O’Neill.

The Finland friendly at Windsor Park tomorrow night offers the big centre-back another opportunity to showcase his talent at a time when a Northern Ireland manager has healthy options in his backline.

Now Scotland-born McPake, who qualifies to play for Northern Ireland through a grandparent born in Coleraine, is hungry to add to his one cap — and savour a more special memory than the demolition in the ’Dam in June.

“I don’t think international football is going to get much tougher for me than taking on Holland in the Amsterdam Arena,” said the 28-year-old.

“That was a bit of an eye opener though it was good being around the boys and a good experience. Sometimes you can find it hard to get back into the squad, especially after a result like that as a defender but I’m delighted to be back in.

“Holland were outstanding that night and it was a tough game for everyone involved. It’s not enjoyable if you’re getting the runaround from exceptional players. On the night they clicked and they are so strong going forward. It was a learning experience for a lot of the boys.

“After that night I thought Holland would go on to win the Euros but they were disappointing.

“It’s pretty difficult to assess international football because Holland were a different class — 11 world class players. I’ll be wiser after a few more games.”

McPake cuts a happier figure after finally sealing his permanent return to Hibs from Coventry City.

Now with a two-year deal under his belt, the former Livingston player is approaching the game with a smile on his face.

“It was a relief to get everything sorted as it was dragging on for a while but I’m happy now,” he added.

“Now I’m hoping to do the business for Hibs and Northern Ireland. I want to be involved in every squad and I want game time as well but that’s up to the manager to pick me and up to me to take my chance and do well.”

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