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McGivern: Ron' battle a big boost

NORTHERN Ireland full-back Ryan McGivern believes coming up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani last month helped him make a breakthrough as an international player.

McGivern performed admirably in the biggest test of his career against Portugal's star wingers and came out in credit as he helped his side to a 1-1 draw at the Dragao Stadium.

Most pundits expected Ronaldo and Nani, who swapped flanks on several occasions, to give McGivern a torrid time but he stood his ground and came out with new-found self-belief.

"Personally it was a great experience, probably one of the highlights of my career so far," said McGivern, who is expected to retain his place against Azerbaijan tomorrow.

"Marking two of the top wingers in the game, Nani and (especially) Ronaldo, who's one of the best players in the world along with Lionel Messi.

"If I managed to keep those two quiet enough for 90 minutes it gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of my career."

McGivern remains contracted to Manchester City but is plying his trade at Hibs, the sixth different loan club of his career. So far the latest move has proved a roaring success.

"It's a new challenge for me up in Scotland and I'm really enjoying it," he said. "The team's doing well and I'm doing well myself."

Michael O'Neill lost a fifth member of his original 24-man squad yesterday when Grant McCann flew home to be with his heavily pregnant wife.

Jamie Ward, Jonny Evans, Andy Little and Alex Bruce had already pulled out with injury problems, with Billy McKay, Danny Lafferty and Ryan McLaughlin called in as cover.