BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Paul Hanlon admits he has never felt more nervous than while helplessly watching Hibernian succumb to a galling League Cup final defeat against Ross County.
However, the Easter Road stalwart insists that Hampden heartbreak has only made him more determined to spur the Hibees to Championship and Scottish Cup glory.
Hanlon, 26, saw his dreams of facing County dashed when he suffered a thigh strain in the 3-2 reverse against Dumbarton at the end of February, with the damage keeping him out for more than a month.
And, despite being made to feel a part of the build-up for the showpiece, he was restricted to a watching brief as the capital club succumbed to a crushing defeat due to Alex Schalk’s last-minute strike.
He recalled: “That’s the most nervous I have ever been at a game. I was a lot more nervous than I ever would have been playing. It was hard watching but that’s just because you want the team to do well.
“It was difficult but that’s a part of football, you get injured. Mine was probably bad timing, but you just have to get on with it.
“I had to do a lot of hard work with the physios and hopefully I will come back stronger for it.
“Deep down I knew I’d miss the final as soon as I got the injury, but the manager was great, I still felt a part of things. I went to Spain with the boys, I did my rehab there and it was good to get away rather than have to slog it out in the gym every day.
“I stayed with the boys the night before the game as well so I felt a part of things. I was just gutted it didn’t go our way on the day.”
However, Hanlon believes the Hibees can take solace from the fact they are still chasing success on two fronts.
They face Alloa this afternoon as they battle with Falkirk for second spot in the Championship and return to the national stadium for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United in seven days.
The former Scotland under-21 skipper continued: “It is a strange one. I have been involved in Scottish Cup finals before and we have been beaten – and then you’re away, that’s the season done.
“Whereas, this time it was a case of ‘let’s put it to the back of our mind and let’s go again’. There is plenty to play for and that’s something we’re all excited about.
“Promotion at the end of the day has always been our aim, no matter how we do it. We’ve still got a chance of doing that, so that’s our main focus.”
Meanwhile, Hanlon admits his own future is unlikely to be resolved until Hibs know what division they will be in next season.
The longest-serving player at Easter Road along with Lewis Stevenson, Hanlon is out of contract in the summer and talks are yet to being over an extended deal.
He added: “I’m just concentrating on the games just now. We’ve got massive games and this spell coming up is huge for the club in terms of finances and where they’re going to be.
“My main aim is to get the club promoted, then we’ll talk. I suppose they can’t really talk numbers until they know what division we’re in. But I’m really not even thinking about it. I’m not pushing them.
“I’ve been injured for the past month, so my aim has been to get ready, get fit, get this club promoted. If anything happens – whether I don’t sign here or sign – it’s only going to matter if I’m playing well on the pitch.”