Han­lon: ‘You can’t blame them for go­ing men­tal’

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SCOTTISH CUP FINAL - STE­WART FISHER

THE match may ul­ti­mately be re­mem­bered for all the wrong rea­sons. But Paul Han­lon is still try­ing to come to terms with the fact his name will pass into pos­ter­ity for the right ones.

Thou­sands of Hibs fans charged on to the Ham­p­den turf as the Easter Road club clinched their first Scot­tish Cup win in 114 years of try­ing, but Han­lon was a dyed-in-the-wool Hibs sup­porter in the priv­i­leged po­si­tion of be­ing able to spend 83 min­utes on the pitch as the club fi­nally got that Scot­tish Cup mon­key off their backs.

While he was speak­ing per­haps with­out the full knowl­edge of every­thing that went on, Han­lon re­fused to blame the club’s fans for get­ting a bit car­ried away. In­deed, were he not play­ing, who knows, he would per­haps have been among them.

“You can’t blame the fans,” said Han­lon, a vet­eran of the club’s 2012 and 2013 Scot­tish Cup de­feats, not to men­tion the club’s slump to the championship in May 2014. “They have put up with enough stuff over the years that you can’t blame them for go­ing men­tal.

“It has been hard times the last few years, and the fans have been through it all with us,” the 26-year-old added. “So it was just this one day – for them to get on the pitch and fall about with the play­ers and stuff. We can’t have a go be­cause they’ve been through so much and they love the club.

“You think about this mo­ment but when it ac­tu­ally hap­pens, it’s sur­real. I was off to­wards the end but by the time I got on the pitch there were thou­sands of fans around me. I’ve been watch­ing the play-offs the last few days and that’s been hap­pen­ing. There’s noth­ing like it.”

As im­per­fect as the post-match pre­sen­ta­tions were, Han­lon still marked the mo­ment in the bo­som of his fam­ily. “My dad was sit­ting along just a few rows back from the dugout,” he said. “It took a while be­fore we could get the fans back a wee bit but by the time we came back out to get the tro­phy, I got back to see my fam­ily and give them a cud­dle and I could see how much it means to them. They have been there for me all the way through. Ev­ery­one is try­ing to let it sink in.”

When it comes to writ­ing your name into the folk­lore of the club, it doesn’t get much bet­ter than wip­ing 114 years of mis­ery off the boards with your first Scot­tish Cup win since 1902.

It wouldn’t have hap­pened with­out him, not least con­sid­er­ing his in­jury­time equaliser against Hearts ear­lier in the com­pe­ti­tion. But in terms of brass tacks, though, pro­mo­tion might just have been prefer­able. Re­turn­ing the Easter Road side back to the top flight is next on his list, and while this un­der­rated de­fender is out of con­tract this sum­mer, he hinted yes­ter­day that there could be some move­ment on his fu­ture in the next few weeks.

“In terms of be­ing re­mem­bered as a Hibs player, this is prob­a­bly bet­ter than pro­mo­tion but for the club I would say pro­mo­tion is more im­por­tant,” he added. “But the man­ager said it be­fore the League Cup fi­nal, and it was the same for the Scot­tish Cup fi­nal. Fi­nals don’t come around all the time and you have to grasp them. All you need to do is win one and you are a hero.

“I don’t know what is go­ing to hap­pen but at the end of the day this is the club I love play­ing for,” he said. “I have said I will make a de­ci­sion at the end of the sea­son so I will see what hap­pens in the next cou­ple of weeks. But I am proud to play for this club and I have said be­fore if I fin­ish my ca­reer here I will be proud of that.”

CAP­TAIN MAR­VEL: Paul Han­lon (left) holds the tro­phy with skip­per David Gray

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