Scottish Cup Final Preview
They started talking about this finally being Hibernian’s Cup year when an own goal put paid to fierce rivals Hearts in the fourth round back in December.
Hearts had mauled Hibs 5-1 in last year’s Scottish Cup Final and had been unbeaten in 12 previous Edinburgh derbies, so perhaps this was an omen.
A late penalty save to deny Aberdeen in Round 5, followed by a convincing 4-2 win at Kilmarnock in the quarter-finals gave the Hibees more cause for optimism before that incredible 4-3 semi-final comeback win over Falkirk got some of them proclaiming: “This year, our name is on the Cup.”
The trouble is, Hibernian’s name hasn’t been on the Cup for 111 years. Tomorrow’s formidable opponents, Celtic, on the other hand, have had their name inscribed on it no less than 32 times in that period.
Where Hibs have got form is in finishing runner-up in Scotland’s spring showpiece. Their 5-1 disintegration to Hearts was the tenth time their players trudged off as beaten finalists since their last success way back in 1902.
In truth the mighty Celtic, who by the way will be lining up in their all-black away strip, haven’t exactly been serene in their progress through to the Final. They, too, had to go into extra time to beat Dundee United 4-3 in their semi-final and they needed two goes at second division Arbroath in an early round before seeing them off by the odd goal.
But Celtic, as they showed against Barcelona in the Champions League group stage, are a class above at this level when they are on their game and it is difficult to see anything other than yet another trophy for the Glasgow side and another year of heartbreak for a team who finished 28 points behind them in the Scottish Premier League. Celtic are, predictably, a short price to win in 90 minutes (2/5), but a 3-0 scoreline (8/1 with Coral) looks a decent bet with a saver on 3-1 (11/1).
One of Hibs’s best two chances of pulling off a shock is their 22-year-old top scorer and Scotland’s Young Player Of The Year, Leigh Griffiths, who netted twice in both quarter-final and semi-final victories. Coral make him 6-1 to open the scoring and if Hibs are to get a goal, he is most likely to provide it.
Their other chance is for a bit of luck. We saw how much good fortune can sometimes play a part in Cup Finals in the recent all-Madrid Copa Del Rey when Real smacked the post three times, had two more efforts somehow scrambled off the line and still ended up as losers. It can and does happen from time to time and Hibs’ fans will be praying that this time, finally, it happens for them.
Written by Jon Freeman