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A FIGHT FOR SORE EYES; Classic Final's just what we need.

Byline: JAMES TRAYNOR

TODAY Edinburgh comes to Glasgow. And you'll all be needing your tea.

Come on in and help yourselves. Oh, and thanks for coming.

There's plenty of sauce for everyone, so what'll you have? A pint, or 10? A half? Gentlemen's measures of course. You don't know just how much of a relief it is to see you all.

It might not be what the nervous systems of both Hibernian and Hearts need but a Scottish Cup Final, a season finale between these two, is exactly what the rest of us require right now.

Finally and thankfully, something to make us forget about Rangers and the year-long saga of their collapse.

Cars, buses and trains will bring more than 50,000 from the nation's capital to the Scottish game's capital to bear witness to what is the most important match Hibs and Hearts will ever play.

This derby is one of the oldest rivalries in world football and although the clubs met in the 1896 Final - I could be wrong but I think Jim Jefferies and Pat Stanton were at that match - played at Edinburgh's Logie Green with Hearts winning 3-1, the raw, skin-tingling excitement and knuckle-biting fear generated by today's game have reached new and almost unbearable levels.

Hearts have won the cup six times with their last triumph coming in 2006 when they beat now-defunct Gretna, while Hibs have lifted the old trophy only twice. But Hearts are propelled into this Final using the confidence amassed from a run of 10 derby matches without defeat as fuel, although their rivals should also be buoyed having secured their SPL survival.

However, it is a fact that Hearts have the stronger squad and if Paulo Sergio's players have enough energy left and can hit their best form Hibs will struggle. Their darkest nightmare might just become reality.

The Easter Road side haven't experienced national cup success in 110 years even though they've been in eight finals since their last victory losing four times to Celtic, and once each to Airdrie (you're welcome), Aberdeen, Clyde, and Rangers.

It's no wonder there were Hibs fans who despaired of ever again seeing the Cup carried down Leith way. But when Leigh Griffiths found the net five minutes from the end in last month's semi-final against Aberdeen to give them a 2-1 win, hope began to rise again in the hearts of Hibs.

Heading into the Final they are believers. But probably at night, when the lights are doused and sleep won't come, they are also desperately afraid.

The fear of losing a ninth Scottish Cup Final since that day back in 1902 when Andy McGeachan scored the only goal to beat Celtic, will travel with Hibs' fans today. And it will be one of manager Pat Fenlon's priorities to make sure his players are not also weighed down by history when they step on to the Hampden turf.

Above all, they must consider themselves capable of forgetting what has gone before otherwise Hibs will suffer their worst and most traumatic defeat.

They were thrashed 6-1 by Celtic in the 1972 Final but even a single-goal defeat today would have more far-reaching consequences. Losing a Cup Final to any club is painful enough but defeat by Hearts in such a high-profile game and after so many other Final near misses? That would be an act of cruelty beyond our comprehension. Some Hibs fans might lose the power, the will to leave their darkened rooms ever again. They might never smile and become lost in a place somewhere between hopelessness and misery. Greece, I think it's called these days.

Simply because of Hibs' desire to banish from deeply-scarred minds the horrors of past final-day failures the very thought of being outdone by Hearts has probably been enough to cause grown men to stop dead on Leith Walk. Their shoulders would have sagged. And then they'd have wept quietly before walking on.

Don't try telling any of them it's only a game. It isn't. Not today.

This is historical. It's about more than a century of hurt and today a gaggle of players, none of whom could have laced the boots of the Famous Five or players like Stanton, O'Rourke, Brownlie and Blackley, have a chance to make everything all right.

Fenlon's group can become heroes if they beat Hearts. Even if they never play another match their names will be remembered by Hibs and their supporters until the end of time.

Griffiths, or Garry O'Connor, who scored the opening goal in the semi, have the ability and either one could make the difference between Hibs losing or winning. But Griffiths will have to be fully focused because he is prone to acts of stupidity and could easily be wound up by opponents.

Ian Black, who'll be playing his last game for Hearts, will be well aware of the fragility of Griffiths' temperament, not that anyone is suggesting for a moment that the midfield enforcer will be seeking to take advantage. However, players do know that if they poke fingers around inside Griffiths' wireworks he can short circuit.

Then again, Black has also been known to blow up and he just might have enough on his own mind trying to remember that timing is everything. Especially in the tackle.

But he can be a key player this afternoon just by making sure no one dominates his area while also trying y g to de dp to make Hearts play and provide decent service to Craig Beattie, provided he has fully recovered from his hamstring injury.

pr hi h ca cpo pHe Hp And then there's Rudi Skacel, who can be anonymous for ages before pouncing to make all the difference. He must contribute if Hearts are to pump but it could all come down to one moment of nervousness, one mistake. It might even come down to penalties.

pu po on omp pe p ac at But despite the fact Hibs' fans are actually drawing a ray of hope from their dismal Cup story - Irishman Dan McMichael was manager when they lifted it in 1902 - they could be in for the blackest day in their history. They have another Irish manager this time but Hearts do have the better players.

th tMli l f th tha bu Yet Hibs could feel liberated as they know they're secure in the SPL and winning the Cup, which would change the course of history, would be a wonderful thing for all of them.

than ch be di But remember also Hearts have had difficult times this season. There were months when the players and staff didn't get their wages yet here they are in another Scottish Cup Final.

They can take a sense of pride on being one of the last two clubs standing and the fact they aren't carrying the same historical baggage could give them the edge, especially if they score first.

So, Gorgie or Leith? Gorgie, I think but then I thought Barcelona and Real Madrid would beat Chelsea and Bayern Munich and look who'll be playing the Champions League Final in the spectacular Allianz Arena tonight.

It was also my opinion Airdrie would beat Dumbarton in the first leg of the First Division play-off final on Wednesday night but they didn't. No matter, we'll sort it tomorrow at our place - but today? Hearts. Just. No wait, it'll be Hibs. Defeat would destroy too many. Fate just can't be that insensitive ... or can it? Anyway, no matter who wins thanks for coming. We all needed the break.

DON'T MISS MONDAY'S CUP FINAL

CAPTION(S):

AGONY OR ZECSTASY One set of fans will suffer while the other celebrates
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 19, 2012
Words:1283
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