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Hibernian: Continental football on the horizon

Hibernians’ Scottish cup final claim seemed unattainable at the half time whistle of the semi final. 1st Division outfit Falkirk boasting a three goal advantage at the half time interval, sending some Hibs supporters home after a mere 30 minutes of action. As a miserable first half concluded, the dejected look on the fans faces remained, but in the dressing room Pat Fenlon with his job very much on the line, was unyielded. He “couldn’t say” precisely what he said in that dressing room, according to his post match interview.

And, with young Alex Harris’ audacious attempt finding the top right hand corner of the goal, it was the spark to an inspiration revival. Subsequent goals from the inspirational Eoin Doyle and a double from the prolific Leigh Griffiths sent Hibs to Hampden for the second consecutive season.

With champions Celtic already qualifying for the Champions League tournament, reaching the Scottish Cup was of no real significance to them, meaning Hibs are guaranteed a position in the Europa League Qualifiers and will enter as Cup runners up to the champions.

The Scottish Cup final was a one-sided encounter. Former Hibs striker Anthony Stokes ran the show in the 3-0 victory for the favourites. A mournful day was eased slightly as the Hibernian supporters showed a great act of defiance, outsinging the Celtic supporters after the final whistle, delaying the Celtic club anthem ‘You’ll never walk alone’. Even the Celtic skipper and former Hibs player Scott Brown admitted that.

Despite the despondency of the Hibs fans, there’ still a light at the end of the tunnel. At least two Europa League outings, with some potentially attractive prospects.  Accomplished sides such as FC Rubin Kazan, Lech Posnan, Trabonzpor, Standard Liege, Red Star Belgrade and Hapoel Tel Aviv are in the same qualification round as the Hibernian side.

Entry into this prestigious competition used to be a regular occurrence. But this is the first time Hibs have qualified for the tournament since season 2010-2011 under the management of John ‘Yogi’ Hughes, where Hibs were eliminated via a 6-2 annihilation in the hands of Slovenian outfit NK Maribor on aggregate. Hibs lost the first leg 3-2 at Easter Road but an unconvincing 3-0 away defeat ended any chance of another away trip for the Hibees.

NK Maribor captain Marcos Tavares played a pivotal role in the victory over Hibs

NK Maribor captain Marcos Tavares played a pivotal role in the victory over Hibs

As the saying goes ‘Football fans are fickle’ and any sort of Europa League run will erase any bad memories of the cup final. New signings Liam Craig, Owain Tudor Jones may have an impact on Hibs fate and could help achieve the ambitions of getting back into the competition on a regular basis again. This is where we belong and the Hibs fans must have the belief that there is to be many more happy memories in this renowned tournament despite the substandard league performances.

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