Paul Hanlon with one eye on last season as Hibs set to renew rivalry with Rangers

Hibs and Hampden Park didn’t have the healthiest of relationships in season 2020/21.

Hibs captain Paul Hanlon, with Jamie Murphy, after Hibs are defeated by St Johnstone in last season's Scottish Cup final. Picture: SNS
Hibs captain Paul Hanlon, with Jamie Murphy, after Hibs are defeated by St Johnstone in last season's Scottish Cup final. Picture: SNS

Including the rearranged Scottish Cup semi-final from the curtailed 2019/20 campaign against their capital rivals, Jack Ross’ side made four trips to the national stadium. Despite never facing the financial might of either half of the Old Firm on any of those occasions, they still only managed a record of one win in four, going down to Hearts and St Johnstone in semis before losing to the Saintees again in the Scottish Cup final after defeating Dundee United.

It was a disappointing caveat on what was otherwise a successful season for the Easter Road club, who finished third place in the top flight of Scottish football for the first time in 16 years.

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Sunday brings with it a return to the national stadium. A Premier Sports Cup semi with Rangers is incentive enough, though there is an additional motivating factor to make up for the regret of last term.

"Across the league and cups we put ourselves in a position to have a really incredible season,” said captain Paul Hanlon. “The league was good but there is that disappointment that still lingers that it could have been even better with the cups.

“The opportunities were there and we didn’t take them. But we have come back this year and the opportunity is there for us again. It’s about learning and being better than we were last year.

Asked if he felt an extra responsibility to right those wrongs as captain, he added: “It's more to do with looking after the team and making sure the boys are prepared.

"I need to make sure I'm prepared as well - I've got a responsibility to the team to do that as well. It's just about making sure I'm in the right space going into the game and looking after everyone else after that."

It’s the first meeting in Mount Florida between the sides since the 2016 Scottish Cup final where Hanlon, along with defensive team-mates Lewis Stevenson and Darren McGregor, helped the club end 114 years of heartbreak in the tournament.

A rivalry which fostered that season as the teams duked it out for the second-tier title has only grown since and there will be no love lost when they meet again on Sunday, especially following the contention around the last meeting when Ryan Porteous was sent off for a lunge on Joe Aribo and Rangers overturned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win.

“I think it has been building for a few years because we have been really competitive against them in big games. And going back to the time when we were both in the Championship the games there were really good as well.

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“That comes from two competitive teams who believe they can win and I think this game will be no different.

"We were hugely-competitive in the match [at Ibrox in October], got a goal up and were doing really well but got a man sent off and that made it very difficult.

"I think the main lesson was we're going to be competitive and, if we're playing well, we've got every chance to be in that final."

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