Hibs boss Neil Lennon has revealed he “just knew” another Scottish Cup derby with Capital rivals Hearts was on the cards as he listened to the fifth-round draw being made.
Lennon was at Tynecastle to see Hearts defeat Raith Rovers in Wednesday night’s replay as Ian Cathro’s team set up a repeat of last season’s fifth-round clash between the sides, Hibs coming back from being two goals down with ten minutes to play in that match before winning a few days later at Easter Road and then marching on to end their 114-year cup hoodoo.
And, while looking forward to his first Edinburgh derby on the weekend of February 11/12 – anticipating it will be as raucous as any Old Firm match – Lennon insisted his thoughts had immediately turned to tomorrow’s game against Queen of the South in Dumfries with promotion his top priority.
“I didn’t know which number belonged to which team in the draw,” he admitted. “But when number eight came out I thought ‘that’s us’. I had a bit of a wry smile – great.
“It’s a really interesting draw, a derby. It will be a difficult tie because we are away from home against a Premiership team – but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. We were at the game on Wednesday night to see what the otucome would be, but it is two or three weeks away so a lot can change between now and then, For the fans, the anticipation will build and build in the coming weeks. For us, we will look forward to it when it arrives. I’m really looking forward to experiencing the Edinburgh derby. I’ve never attended one, so it will be new for me. Every great derby has its own sub-plots and signature. This one is no different. It is intense and reflects a great rivalry between the sides.”
Lennon, of course, is a veteran of countless matches between Celtic and Rangers both as a player and manager, encounters which have been described as “torture” although he insisted he couldn’t compare it to an Edinburgh derby until he’s had that experience. He said: “I’ll let you know after we play them. The hype surrounding the Old Firm is global, whereas this is more parochial or provincial, albeit in a big city. But I am sure it will be just as intense and it will mean as much to the fans as any other derby around the world.”
Lennon’s last two visits to Tynecastle have seen his side score 15 goals, Celtic beating Hearts 7-0 in the Scottish Cup four years ago and, at the weekend, Hibs inflicting an 8-1 defeat on junior side Bonnyrigg Rose. He said: “These are slightly different circumstances.
“It would be nice to get another seven or eight – but I’m not sure that will be feasible. No, I like the ground, I like the atmosphere and I’m sure this will be as raucous as anything I have experienced before.”
Now, though, Lennon insisted his players can’t lose focus on a league campaign in which they hold a six-point advantage over title rivals Dundee United. He said: “We are talking about it (the cup match) now because Hearts got through this week and we will talk about it when the tie comes round.
“Aside from that, I’ve honestly not given it a second thought. I’m more concerned about how we get on against Queen of the South and Ayr United the week after. It’s really important we keep winning games in the league, far more important than any cup tie at the minute.”
Meanwhile, having snapped up goalkeeper Scott Gallacher on a short-term deal, Lennon revealed he hasn’t given up hope of bringing Celtic midfielder Kris Commons back to Easter Road. The 33-year-old played five matches for Hibs during a 28-day emergency loan and talks have been taking place since that expired with a view to him returning to Edinburgh until the end of the season.
Lennon said: “There’s no further movement either way on that but we are still optimistic. We are still in the hunt.”