John Doolan reveals chance Edinburgh meeting with Anthony Stokes and backs current Hibs team to shine at Hampden
Edinburgh is a bit of a village at times so it’s not so unusual to bump into somebody you know.
But every now and then there is a chance encounter that seems to defy the odds, like John Doolan bumping into former Hibs striker Anthony Stokes just days before the fifth anniversary of the Scottish Cup final win in 2016.
Visiting the Capital with his wife Suzanne, Doolan had stopped off at a city centre restaurant for a bite to eat and it just so happened that the Irishman, who scored two goals in the cup final, was there at the same time.
“When I was in Edinburgh last week I bumped into Stokesy. We were having a meal and one of the restaurant staff came over and said that there was someone who wanted to see me.
"I turned around and there he was, and we’re both asking what the other’s doing there! We had a boss catch-up.
"I don’t know if it’s a good sign seeing him a week before the final but I had to ask him if he was still out celebrating 2016!
"He did great for us in the final, but I used to joke with him that he barely did anything in the other games he played. I kept saying to him every game, ‘are you going to turn up today and show everyone why we took you on loan?’
"Before the cup final, he went over to the iPad and was looking at the set-pieces and he turned around.
"I asked him, ‘ are you going to have a go today then?’ and he replied, ‘leave me alone, stop riding me’ and then he went and had the best game of his life.
"When we were chatting last week he was thanking me and Alan Stubbs for backing him. That’s what strikers need, when they’re going through a bad patch.
"He said, ‘you backed me, you were great with me, you were first class’. But it was great seeing him – I’ve not really seen him since May 2016; he’s been away playing in Iran and Greece and wherever, and then I bump into him in Edinburgh the week before the next cup final.”
Doolan is, unsurprisingly, in regular touch with the 2016 team – “John McGinn has been brilliant for Aston Villa and he’s such a lovely lad too” – but he’s keen to see those who were on the fringe last time out, as well as the new crop of Hibees hoping to make history, do well tomorrow.
"I obviously met Paul McGinn when John was at the club, but he’s been brilliant at right-back and made it his own, and really deserved his Scotland call-up.
"I think he’s proved a lot of people wrong since he came in but then that’s what McGinns do, don’t they? Paul’s done a great job for Hibs.”
Martin Boyle could have a big role to play at the national stadium tomorrow – a far cry from his unused substitute appearance five years ago.
“Martin has such a massive role at the club now,” Doolan agrees. “When we were there, Boyley was on the fringes for us and I was only just talking to him yesterday and telling him that everything he has now, he deserves because the attitude he had, whether he was in the team or he wasn’t, was first class.
"He would never have his chin on his chest if he was left out. He was around the lads, brilliant in the dressing room, brilliant off the pitch, just a superb lad.
"I’m so happy because he’s got his rewards now with his contract and he’s been playing unbelievable football for the club.”
Lewis Stevenson is another survivor from 2016 and while he was a first pick five years ago, he has often found himself on the bench this term as a result of the meteoric rise of Josh Doig, who is likely to start tomorrow’s game.
Darren McGregor is another one who has taken on more of a supporting role this season, whereas Paul Hanlon’s performances earned him a long-awaited Scotland cap.
Doolan continued: “There’s Lewis Stevenson, who’s been in and out of the team but you know what you’re getting with Lewy. The lad’s a legend at Hibs: he’s won both cups and he’s just done everything. So many appearances and he just wears his heart on his sleeve.
"Paul Hanlon gives you everything at the back; he’s composed, mature, he’s still going, and doing a brilliant job and I’m so glad he finally got that Scotland recognition."
Ryan Porteous has become a key player in Jack Ross’ Hibs side and while he was still a kid during Doolan's time at Easter Road, the former first-team boss isn't surprised to see the centre-back thriving alongside some other newer faces.
"You can see why Ryan has been in the Scotland set-up. The kid’s got something about him. He's got that competitive streak and doesn't like losing, he’s a bit like McGregor.
"I was so happy for Darren too in 2016. He was like a man possessed that day. He just wanted to win that cup so badly because it’s his team and then for an Edinburgh boy like David Gray to get the winner was great.
"Dave was our first signing. He was a leader off the pitch, on the pitch, and a the training ground. I know he’s not played much this season but what he gives you and what he brings to the team is invaluable. I’m just so happy for them that they’ve got the chance to go and get another Scottish Cup.
"Winning it after 114 years was just unreal for those lads, especially Dave and Darren and their families; after what they’d been through, to actually lift the cup – they’re just immortal, aren’t they?”