Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Salt & Sauce Final

Hearts last Scottish Cup win in 2006
For most rivalries in football, there are always one or two high profile meetings with your biggest rivals.  Fans in Liverpool will always remember the trilogy of cup finals between Liverpool & Everton in the mid 80’s, Fans in London will not just remember the trilogy of FA Cup semi finals between Tottenham and Arsenal, but both the FA Cup final (of 2002) and the European Cup Quarter Final (in 2004) between Arsenal & Chelsea.  Up here, the biggest rivalry outside of the Old Firm (who seems to contest domestic finals once every couple of years or so) get their day in the sun on Saturday when Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian contest the 127th Scottish Cup Final.

What has added to the occasion is that the last Edinburgh derby in a national final took place in 1896 – which was played at Logie Green, the home of Edinburgh’s third team – St Bernards.  It hasn’t been as long as that since both sides came to Hampden, both teams met at the semi final stage of this competition six years ago with Hearts winning 4-0 on their way to their seventh Scottish Cup win.  From that day, there will be only three survivors (all of whom have moved around and come back to the clubs they played for) – Andy Webster and Rudi Skacel for Hearts and Ivan Sproule for Hibs.

Hearts have of course been here before, they are bidding for their third Scottish Cup win in 14 years, and their eighth in total.  Coming on top of their historic win against Celtic – their first win over one of the Old Firm at Hampden in the Scottish Cup since their win over Celtic won them the Scottish Cup in 1956, Hearts go into this match as favourites.  Hib’s have been fighting relegation for most of this season, yet much will depend on how much of their 110 year burden their manager Pat Fenlon can keep from the players.  Yet in Hibs favour seems to be that Fenlon appears to know his team this far out.  Hearts have a couple of doubts, mostly surrounding whether the matchwinner from the semi final, craig Beattie, is fit enough to start.
Hearts beat Hibernian 4-0 in the semi final of 2006

Since Hearts & Dundee United lifted the Scottish Cup in the 1990’s, Hib’s are now Scottish Football’s bridesmaids.  Since their last victory, they have lost 8 finals in differing fashions.  Both Airdrieonians (in 1924) & Clyde (in 1958, skippered by Harry Haddock) won their only Scottish Cups against Hib’s, while Celtic plundered four of their Scottish Cup wins against Hib’s (4-1 after a replay in 1914, 1-0 in 1923, 6-1 in 1972 and 3-0 in 2001 – Hibs last Scottish Cup final appearance).  The closest Hib’s came to Scottish Cup glory though came in 1979 when Hib’s contested the longest Scottish Cup final of all time.  Two 0-0 draws was followed by a second replay that went into extra time before finishing up at 3-2 to Rangers.

Saturday has all the ingredients for something special to happen, it also has the ingredients that things could boil over.  In the last cup final to be played at 3pm on a Saturday (hopefully for a couple of years at least), I hope that Saturday will be one to remember.  As for a prediction, am I alone in having a sneaky feeling for the Hibbies to win 1-0 or 2-1?

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