Friday, April 13, 2012
Fenlon out to bury Hibs' ghosts
Take one of Edinburgh's famed ghost tours and you will be brought along the cobble-stoned Royal Mile, where tales of cannibals, graverobbers and banshees will test your limit of believability.
Even more inconceivable though is that Hibernian FC have gone 110 years without winning the Scottish Cup. Yet, the facts are there to prove that that myth is actually fuelled by truth.
Over at Easter Road, it is something that the club's supporters would prefer not to discuss as 17 other teams have lifted the trophy since they last won it back in 1902. It is a ghost story that haunts them every season.
However, this could be the year when they finally lift that hoodoo. A good omen can be found in manager Pat Fenlon - the first Irishman to take over since Dan McMichael, who led them to their last Cup triumph.
On Saturday, Hibs take on Aberdeen in the semi-finals with Fenlon hoping that they can do enough to reach the showpiece event at Hampden Park on May 19, but he won't be relying on his Irish links.
"That [Irish connection] has been mentioned alright. The Cup has been a nice distraction for us, because the day after we beat Kilmarnock there was a buzz around the place," said Fenlon.
"There is still something to play for with the Cup, although as far as I'm concerned finishing three or four places up the table would be of higher importance. But the Cup run has been good.
"The infatuation with the Cup here is hard to believe when you see such a big club not having won it in over 100 years. It was so long ago that there is nobody around that remembers that Cup win.
"I suppose people are talking about the romanticism of it again because they had an Irish manager when they last won it and now there's another Irishman here. But that doesn't mean we are guaranteed anything."
Hibs swatted aside Cowdenbeath, Kilmarnock and Ayr United to reach this stage of the competition, although Aberdeen, who are three places ahead of them in the SPL table, will pose a far tougher test.
Fenlon will know exactly what to expect of Craig Brown's team. The 43-year-old is meticulous in his preparation for games and will undoubtedly supply his players with intricate details about their opponents.
During his time in Ireland with Shelbourne and Bohemians, the Dubliner completed the clean sweep of domestic trophies: Five League of Ireland titles, two FAI Cups, one League of Ireland Cup and one Setanta Sports Cup. To say that he knows how to win important games is a massive understatement.
Critics may point to Hibs' inconsistency in the league since he took over from Colin Calderwood in November, although to borrow the opening line of a classic from The Beatles - 'It's getting better all the time'.
"It would be nice just to get to the final first and foremost and then if we could go on to win it, it would be unbelievable," said Fenlon, who will not be taking anything for granted.
"Our priority is the game against Aberdeen this weekend and if we can win that one it would give everyone a huge boost going into the final games of the season. A couple of good results in the Cup would mean a massive lift looking forward to next season."
Next season is already something that Fenlon is working towards with better players needed to transform his struggling Hibs side into a competitive force who can challenge for European football.
Before then, the Hibs boss has to secure the club's SPL status - they hold a seven-point gap over Dunfermline - and tackle their Cup hoodoo. But he is someone who thrives under pressure and relishes a challenge.
Fenlon may still be considered a newcomer to Scottish football, although if he carries over his tradition of Cup success in Ireland then he could just become a Hibs legend and finally bring an end to their unwanted ghost story.