Eoin DOYLE today admitted he can only wonder at the reception Hibs might get if they win the Scottish Cup in 11 days’ time after watching Easter Road rocking as Pat Fenlon’s side secured their place in the SPL.
Hibs’ biggest crowd of the season turned up for the relegation showdown against basement outfit Dunfermline and the fans were rewarded with a three-goal blitz in the opening 14 minutes which ended any fears of First Division football next season.
Matt Doherty, Doyle and Garry O’Connor, from the penalty spot, set the stadium alight with defender Paul Hanlon getting a fourth late on although it appeared his rocket shot hadn’t crossed the line after crashing down off the underside of the bar.
It was only Hibs’ second SPL win on home turf this season and their biggest league victory, one which, Irish striker Doyle insisted, allows them to now enjoy the build-up to their Hampden date with Capital rivals Hearts a week on Saturday.
Boss Pat Fenlon had banned all talk of the first all-Edinburgh Cup final in 116 years as his side fought for safety in the top flight but after achieving that goal preparations were today beginning in earnest for the derby to end all derbies.
Doyle, who won the Irish Cup in each of the last two seasons with Sligo Rovers, said: “The Cup has always been at the back of the mind and it’s sometimes been hard to keep it there with important league matches to play. But it would be a massive achievement for us to do it and we have every confidence we can.
“Easter Road was rocking last night, I hadn’t see it like that and hopefully we can see it again very shortly. We can start looking forward to the Cup, we can enjoy the run-in knowing our safety is secure.
“The ground was rocking, the fans turned up in huge numbers and Easter Road felt like a fortress from the minute the game kicked off.”
Hibs had gone into the second last SPL match of the season knowing a point would be good enough to keep them up and condemn Jim Jefferies’ Pars to the drop but, Doyle revealed, there were few signs of nerves in the home dressing room before kick-off. The 24-year-old, Fenlon’s first signing, said: “You go into the game hoping you’ll win, but to score three in the first 14 minutes was a dream start. Before the match we were confident, especially after winning at Aberdeen.
“We knew we had to get the job done and we dominated early and although Dunfermline kept the ball well and had good possession in midfield, we were clinical.
“It was a brilliant result but disappointing perhaps that we haven’t had a few more of them this season.”
Although the sight of Dunfermline whittling away Hibs’ points advantage had set the fans’ nerves jangling, Doyle revealed Fenlon hadn’t allowed the pressure to get to his players. He said: “The gaffer has taken the burden of the pressure. He has not brought it into the changing room. All he has told us is to go out enjoy ourselves and to work hard.”
Fenlon confessed to being a touch embarrassed as the players took the traditional bow in front of their own fans following their last home match of the season, the celebrations somewhat out of place for having finished second bottom of the pile.
Doyle agreed, but insisted it demonstrated the potential at Easter Road and he hopes the memory of the night will help persuade some of his team-mates who face an uncertain future to commit to Hibs if the opportunity arises.
Having thrown together a team with the sole aim of SPL survival, Fenlon now faces the task of rebuilding his side over the summer with a clutch of players out of contract and many more coming to the end of their loan deals.
Doyle said: “It’s going to be interesting, but I am sure the gaffer will put a good, strong team together and hopefully nights like last night will help persuade them.
“This is a club which has been under-achieving big-time, but I’m certain we’ll put it right next season and be pushing into the top six.”
First up, of course, is that little matter of the cup final. Doyle said: “There’s the relief that we are safe in the SPL and now we can get our heads right for Hearts. Imagine what this place would be like if we could bring the cup back?”