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Pat's eyes on Scots prize

IT'S FOOTBALL'S twist on the tale of the prophet in his own land.

Despite years of success in football in his native Ireland, Pat Fenlon knows that, for many people, he will only be taken seriously if he can prosper abroad.

He's already secured one achievement from his time as manager of Hibernians as he's managed to avoid relegation and keep them in the SPL, but tomorrow the 43-year-old can ensure that he becomes an eternal legend in the minds of Hibs fans if he can lead them to a Scottish Cup final win over their local rivals Hearts.

The man from Finglas has fought some battles since he took over at Easter Road last year, one recent problem being the priorities of some Hibs fans who would have given up their SPL status in exchange for a Cup final win over Hearts tomorrow. He's also won over the fans, some of whom doubted if Fenlon was up to the task of managing Hibs because they didn't go on a 12-game winning run after he took over just because he was, as it's often said incorrectly, that he was "only coming from the Irish League".

He's also aware that many people in Ireland will take note if he can win something in Scotland because the eight trophies he won as manager in Ireland don't really count for a lot of people.

"Maybe it is an Irish thing where you can only prove yourself by doing something abroad," Fenlon told the Evening Herald this week, as he took his Hibs squad away from the hype of Edinburgh to spend a few calm days in Dublin for training.

"I think a lot of the players who have gone to Britain in the last few years have proved that there is real quality in Ireland, you can see that in the fact that there's so many ex-League of Ireland players in the Irish squad for the Euros.

"And if I can go to Scotland and do well, it augurs well for other managers coming through, so they can say 'Hibs got him in and he did ok, there might be a chance for me'.

"It's like with players, when someone like Seamus Coleman goes and does well, clubs think better of the league at home and it could be the same for a manager.

"Stephen Kenny sent me a text last week saying just that, that it would be great for the other managers in the league I am conscious of that, I want to do well not just for myself but maybe if I can have some success here, people in Britain might think 'They know what they're doing over there in Ireland'."

Fenlon has proved that he knows what he's doing at Hibs. They were on the floor and heading into relegation when he joined them last November after a difficult spell at a cash-strapped Bohemians, but he managed to keep them in the SPL, safety secured with a win over Dunfermline last week.

Despite some tough times, Fenlon says he never feared getting the sack. "I was never worried, the remit when I came here was to stay in the league. The way I saw it we were in a two-horse race with Dunfermline, and that wasn't a nice feeling, it's something I was never used to or involved in before. Any time I was in a two-horse race it was to win the league, not avoid relegation," he says.

"The supporters stayed behind me and backed me, they felt that the changes were right and that things were going in the right direction, the fans realised that though things weren't moving as quickly as we'd have liked, there was progress there. Hibs have changed manager on a regular basis over the last while and the fans understood the club couldn't keep doing that all the time."

And now here they are, in a Scottish Cup final as underdogs (Hibs were priced at 20/1 to win the trophy before the competition started) and hoping to win it for the first time in 110 years.

He says: "It's massive for everyone at the club, even for me it's huge. The biggest game I have been involved in up to now was the Deportivo game when I was at Shels. Because it's against Hearts and because it's so long since Hibs last won it, it has really grown legs since we reached the final," added Fenlon.

"It would be a fantastic achievement to win it in my first six months in the job. People keep saying it's been 110 years since we won it, it would be amazing to win it."