BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
PAUL Hanlon is determined Saturday’s thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over Dundee United will prove the trigger for an incredible end to the season for Hibernian.
The Easter Road outfit have given themselves an opportunity to become legends after booking a Scottish Cup final date with Rangers next month.
Tomorrow’s staging of a Scottish Cup final dress rehearsal when Hibs host Rangers in the league is a critical encounter in Alan Stubbs’ side’s battle to finish second in the Championship.
After just one league win in their last eight outings, Hibs have two games in hand but are six points behind Falkirk, who also have a superior goal difference, making tomorrow’s clash in the capital crucial.
And Hanlon, who netted his side’s second penalty in the spot-kicks decider against United at Hampden at the weekend, is hopeful Hibs will have been boosted by their cup success.
He said: “We put the fans through it a bit at times, but we’ve got there.
“We probably made it a bit more difficult than it could have been, I would say, but we got there in the end and it was a great way to win it.
“People say at times that penalty shoot-outs can be be a harsh way to lose.
“But when you’re on the winning side it’s great.
“We put a lot of effort in and I thought we deserved it.
“We’ve had a really poor patch recently and hopefully this is the boost that can kick us on towards the end of the season.
“We’ve worked so hard to get to the final and we’ve worked so hard all season as well, and we want to reward ourselves.
“We’ve got a cup final coming up and the play-offs to look forward to as well, so it’s all to play for and it’s a really exciting time for the club.”
As a boyhood Hibs fan, Hanlon knows all too well the club’s painful history in the Scottish Cup.
Having failed to get their hands on the silverware since 1902, May 21 will be the 11th time in the intervening period that they’ve contested the final.
It will also be their third appearance in the final in the last five seasons.
Hanlon, who played in both the 5-1 thrashing from Hearts in 2012 and the 3-0 defeat to Celtic a year later, got a taste of what could come when the Hibs fans belted out a rendition of their anthem, ‘Sunshine on Leith’, on Saturday.
And he admits the Easter Road squad are fully aware of just how much a win over Rangers at Hampden next month would mean.
He added on Hibernian TV: “You need to be in the final to win it, so we’ve got ourselves there and we’ve given ourselves a chance.
“Hopefully we’ll see a full end singing ‘Sunshine on Leith’ like we did (on Saturday).
“It’s something that all the players are talking about – ‘how good could that be if we can win the cup for this club?’.
“It’s special, and we’ll be giving it our all, I’m sure.”
Meanwhile, John McGinn hopes the dramatic victory can spur Hibs on to finish the campaign on a massive high.
He commented: “It’s been a difficult time for all of us in the past few weeks and it’s just nice to have something positive for a change.
“It’s a chance to turn our season around.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up and if we work as hard as we did on Saturday then I’m sure we’ll be fine.
“Hopefully we can take the confidence from our penalty shoot-out into our performances in the rest of the season.”