Last weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final results have set the scene for an Edinburgh derby in the final of the world’s oldest national cup competition. The derby itself is also one of the oldest rivalries in football, first played on Edinburgh’s Meadows on Christmas Day in 1875. Despite this, May will be the first time the two sides have met in the final since 1896 when Hearts ran out 3-1 winners at Logie Green in Edinburgh- the only time the final has been held outside of Glasgow. Many have already hailed this upcoming final as the biggest match in the history of the derby; given the 116 years since that last final, and the incredible 110 years since Hibernian last won the trophy, this may well be the case.
Most recently, in 2006, Hampden played host to a semi-final between the pair and with second-division Gretna waiting in the final, the winner had a great opportunity to get their hands on the trophy. A vintage Hearts side featuring Paul Hartley, Steven Pressley and Craig Gordon romped to a famous 4-0 victory, captain Hartley with an inspiring hat-trick that took them to the final and set up a seventh cup win.
It is often said that form goes out of the window in derby matches, and that anything can happen in a cup final. Hibs will surely be hoping this rings true on 19 May as they look to end Hearts’ unbeaten run, which stretches back three years, and avenge the three derby defeats suffered this season. With a squad branded one of the worst in memory by some fans, manager Pat Fenlon has done remarkably well to steer his side clear of relegation; add a national final appearance to this, and the Irishman has much to be proud of in his short tenure in the capital. Ending Hibs’ 110-year-old hoodoo, especially against their city rivals, could secure legendary status for Fenlon and his players. Strikers Leigh Griffiths and Gary O’Connor are returning to form just in time for a spectacular end to the season.
However, Hearts will be confident with such an impressive record over Hibs, together with the boost of an impressive and deserved semi-final win over Celtic. New signing Craig Beattie has brought more attacking options to a side which had been overly dependent on goals coming from midfield. After a tricky start in the competition where junior side Auchinleck Talbot almost staged a famous upset, the boys in maroon have faced a long route to the final. They required a replay, a 95th-minute equaliser and extra-time to get past St Johnstone, as well as a replay against St Mirren. Celtic manager Neil Lennon raged about the penalty that saw Hearts eliminate his team last Sunday but the character shown by the capital side to come back from Celtic’s late equaliser and grab a place in the final commands respect.
Edinburgh is poised for a month of escalating hype, as its two premier sides get ready to face-off in the final for the first time in over a century. It promises to be one of the most exciting finals in recent memory and could serve as a fantastic advert for Scottish football outside the Old Firm.