When Craig Thomson blew his whistle signifying the end of the Scottish Cup Final on Saturday May 19 2012 the Hibernian end at Hampden Park was a desolate wilderness, as the mass ranks who had traveled through from Leith had already made a hasty retreat after witnessing the agony of a humiliating 5-1 thrashing to old rivals Hearts.
The dream of ending the 110 year jinx of landing Scottish football’s oldest prize had turned into a nightmare for all Hibees and a summer notorious for being dominated by the ongoing saga of a certain Glasgow club became the perfect time for fans of the Easter Road side to go into hibernation, if you will excuse the pun.
It has not been a good time to be a Hibs supporter. Indeed it is hard to remember the last time when Hibs fans could walk with a spring in their step, such has been their decline in fortunes in recent times.
OK, Tony Mowbray assembled a team packed worth watching packed with the talents of exuberance and zest provided by the likes of Scott Brown, Steven Whittaker, Kevin Thomson, Ivan Sproule, Garry O’ Connor and Derek Riordan but that team only flattered to deceive. It was under John Collin’s short lived stewardship that the men in green and white last landed any silverware with the 5-1 trouncing of Kilmarnock in the 2007 League Cup Final.
Since that joyful day, the Hibs support have had to endure five long suffering years as their beloved club has stumbled from defeat to defeat, slowly but surely becoming a laughing stock in the Scottish game. The constant revolving door of managers coming full of promise and optimism, only to leave disillusioned has not helped matters with messrs Paatelainean, Hughes, and Calderwood finding reviving the fortunes of this once proud side a job too much.
And now the task of dragging Hibs back up the table lies with Irishman Pat Fenlon, who despite only being in the post since last November, was already being talked about the most likely casualty of the first SPL boss to receive his P45 this season before a ball was even kicked. It looked like those predictions could well be turning to reality after only match into the new campaign as his side were outclassed 3-0 by Dundee United at Tannadice.
So the pressure was on Fenlon’s troops to deliver when Hearts and their fans merrily traveled across Auld Reeckie still in party mood from the Cup Final, whilst the hangover of their collapse that fateful day was still very much apparent within the ranks of the Hibernian supporters. Indeed it was alarming though not surprising to see vast empty spaces within the home end for this derby. Clearly for a lot of Hibs fans the disaster of the Cup Final mauling is still something they are finding difficulty to get over. And with 29 minutes on the clock it looked like it was going to all cave in for the hosts yet again as a mix up between Alan Maybury, an ex Hearts star, and goalkeeper Ben Williams allowed Driver with the easy task of slotting home.
However the expected win for Hearts did not materialise as this new Hibs team showed something which has been absent for a long, long time: spirit. Fiery frontman Leigh Griffiths hit the post before notching the equiliser right on half time with a deft finish, after being played in thanks to a wonderful pass from David Wotherspoon.
Suddenly the mood changed within the home support, this team were showing a bit of bite and desire none more so than new recruit Gary Deegan who yes maybe at times looked as if he would be more suited to his national sport of Irish Gaelic football but nevertheless Hibs were giving Hearts a real game. The match may have ended a draw but for the Hibs faithful this could be considered as a small victory of sorts.
It has been 12 games since they last tasted success in an Edinburgh derby, but there were promising signs that Fenlon may yet turn out to be the man who can bring a smile back on the faces of the Hibs fans. Every journey requires that one small step and perhaps this game was that step closer to the day the Hibernian fans can forget all about the massacre of May 19th.
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