GENERATIONS of Hibernians fans have gone for 111 years without seeing their team win the Scottish Cup. Yesterday they were gone in nine minutes.
A smattering of Dublin accents in the crowd at Hampden Park hoped that the team wearing green and white – Celtic were in their black away kit – could come out on top and bring a bit of success inspired by our capital city, as Hibs had two Dubs (Eoin Doyle and Alan Maybury) and three more (Pat Fenlon, Liam O'Brien and Dave Henderson) in charge of things off the field.
Instead it was another Dubliner, Anthony Stokes, who directed matters for the winning side as he had a part in all three goals scored by Celtic in their 3-0 win, the Bhoys landing the double for Neil Lennon.
A second successive cup final defeat for Fenlon, but it's not being glib to say that Hibs, who lost 5-1 to Hearts in last year's final and 'only' lost 3-0 yesterday, are making progress.
For Fenlon, his day was summed up by the fact that Hibs fans who, 12 months ago walked out in disgust before the final whistle of their heavy loss to Hearts, stayed on to cheer the side and not boo them.
Those supporters appeared to be appreciative of what Fenlon has done for the club – who were in danger of relegation to the First Division when he arrived and are now heading into Europe next season – and the fact that their team were simply beaten by a better side.
Awful defending from Hibs for the first two goals didn't help their cause and the day could have turned out a lot different if Hibs striker Eoin Doyle had scored when he had a great chance in the seventh minute, but his header was saved by Fraser Forester in the Celtic goal – only a matter of seconds later Celtic were in front.
"They are a very good side, there is no other way to say that and we were beaten by a better team," Fenlon told the Herald after his second appearance at Hampden Park as a manager.
"But I am proud of the players and supporters. I can quibble over the goals and say we didn't defend properly and in the next few days I will look at myself and how I did things, but there's no shame in losing to a better side.
"We lost to Celtic in a cup final, it's not the end of the world. And yesterday was a proud moment for me, leading Hibs out in a Scottish Cup final against Celtic, that was something special in my career and it was our second cup final in a row, Hibs haven't been to successive cup finals in 90-odd years.
"It's very, very hard to match the levels of a club like Celtic, they are spending £25million a year, we're spending less than two million, so that's difficult.
"We didn't help ourselves with the defending, especially for the first two goals, and if you don't defend properly, a team like Celtic have the quality to really hurt you, which they did."
Fenlon, though unhappy at suffering another final defeat, remained upbeat. "We contributed to the game yesterday, which we didn't really do in the final a year ago so that is something we can take away," he said.
"I think the fact that our fans stayed in the stadium to applaud the players after the final whistle says it all. Our fans are good football people, they know that our players worked very hard.
"We have made progress this season, we finished 19 points ahead of where we were last season, finished four or five places better than last year, got to a cup final and qualified for Europe, so I am happy with that. I'm not happy that we lost 3-0, but I can look back on the season and say progressed."
There will be changes at the club in the off-season, even in an Irish context, as midfielder Gary Deegan – who was unable to make the 16-man squad for the final – is expected to move on. There is a definite departure as former Sligo Rovers man Eoin Doyle, the club's second-top scorer last season, is leaving an SPL to sign for Chesterfield – from a Europa League campaign with Hibs to the English fourth division.
"That's where we are now," Fenlon said. "Eoin is going because he can get more money in League Two and I don't blame him for that, it's a short career in football."
The challenge from Hibs at Hampden yesterday was short lived. Gary Hooper had the Bhoys in front in the ninth minute, finishing well from a Stokes cross, and there was a repeat on 31 minutes, again Stokes causing problems for fellow Dubliner Maybury in the Hibs defence and whipping a cross which Hooper met at the far post.
Down 2-0 at half-time, even the most optimistic Hibs fan – one of The Proclaimers was at the final yesterday and their music has a sunny disposition – didn't really expect a second-half revival. One goal would have made the scoreline more palatable, but the next score came from Celtic, Joe Ledley making it 3-0 with a well-struck effort 11 minutes from time, in a move initiated by Stokes.
That was the final act in a match that was frustrating for Fenlon, who later was unsettled by one line of questioning in the post-match press conference. A reporter wondered if Fenlon "could have taken more risks", something that caused the Finglas man to bristle and effectively ended his press conference, his final comment being: "What do you want me to do, play five up front?"