JAMES McPAKE insisted today that Hibs restored some pride at Hampden despite defeat by Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup final.
At the end of last season the Hibees were humiliated at the national stadium with a 5-1 defeat by Hearts and their supporters are still ridiculed about that result to this day.
However, McPake believes that their performance in the 3-0 loss to Neil Lennon’s men yesterday, combined with the fact that they were up against a multi-million pound squad, meant that he and his team-mates could leave Hampden with their heads held high yesterday.
McPake said: “I don’t think that we were disgraced in any way. We had a few chances in the game and we were able to walk out of Hampden with our heads held a lot higher than 12 months previously after our 5-1 defeat to Hearts.
“The difference on this occasion is that we simply met a superior side and Celtic were clinical. When a team of Celtic’s quality get chances, they are going to punish you.”
Hibs skipper McPake missed the showpiece final because of injury and he admitted it had been tough to sit in the stand and watch his side lose out.
The defender added: “It’s hard to lose any cup final regardless of circumstances but it’s extremely hard to take when you’re not involved and there’s nothing you can do to help the team. I felt helpless sitting on the bench as the boys went down to defeat.
“When we were watching the Champions League final on Saturday night it really hit home to me that I would be missing out. But while I was gutted inside, I was fully aware there was a bigger picture than me – the team. I couldn’t mope about, I had to try to help the rest of the boys because I am club captain and still had a lot to do to try and help the team.”
Although they were disappointed yesterday, the fact they faced SPL Champions Celtic means that they have clinched a European place.
McPake believes the chance to play Europa League qualifiers next season will spur Hibs on and he hopes to see an overall improvement in the side in the coming months, following their bottom-six finish in the SPL.
“We’re all hurting,” he confessed, “but we’ve got a wee break from football now and we can go away and get the heads right because we’ve got two huge Europa League qualifiers to look forward to as well as the new season.
“A break is needed. It’s been another tough season but an improvement on the previous one and that’s all we can ask for.”