Hibernians win the newly named Edinburgh Association Shield, formerly the Edinburgh Association Cup. The Club also open a new stand at Hibernian Park.
Hibernians had survived every obstacle that was thrown in their path by the establishment in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland, the determination of Father Edward Hannan and Michael Whelahan with the support of everyone involved with St Patrick's Church and the Catholic Young Men's Society had in effect achieved something of a minor miracle. Inside just a few years from the formation of the Club in 1875, Hibernians had become the major force in the Edinburgh Football Association and on the wider Scottish stage, had established a reputation built firmly on integrity and, of course, on playing quality football.
Father Hannan sought to use the football club as a tool in providing aid not just for the people of Edinburgh's Little Ireland, but for those in need wherever they may be and without the slightest consideration of whatever religion they might belong. All of this came at a point in time when the game of football itself was an infant, and the growing pains would be felt by many. Professionalism would at some point rear its head and bring about massive changes to the approach that had been taken by these early pioneers, Hibernian more perhaps than most would suffer from this and in time the original ideals of Father Hannan would need to be compromised to allow the Club to move forward.
In just half a dozen years Hibernian had seen the interest in football rise to a remarkable extend, and the Club were now drawing thousands of supporter's to Hibernian Park on a regular basis. The gate money generated was being spent on charitable causes for the most part; with some drawn off to pay for the Catholic Young Men's Society's needs as well as the expenses required to run the football team itself. A portion of the funds was also being put aside to pay for the building of a stand at Hibernian Park, the first ground occupied by the Club at the top of Easter Road.
Edinburgh Association Shield
On the field, Hibernians had by now retained the original Edinburgh Association Cup outright after winning the trophy three times, and this resulted in the Association needing to purchase a new trophy. Deliberations led to a design by Cameron and Son of Kilmarnock, a shield that contained the City of Edinburgh's coat of arms on the top and that of Scotland on the bottom. It was to be called the Edinburgh F.A. Shield, later to become the East of Scotland Shield which is still competed for by Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian to this day.
The opening match for the new trophy in 1881 perhaps fittingly was Hearts against Hibernians, played at Hearts' ground in Gorgie Road, located close to the existing Tynecastle Park used today.
Six thousand turned out for a game that Hibernians won 4-2, a match that was noted for the 'rough play' employed by Hearts. Violence on the park was becoming as much of a problem for the Irishmen as that off it; indeed very soon it was to bring about serious implications for Hibernians and ultimately some much needed changes to the rules of the Edinburgh Football Association.
Soon after the game against Hearts, Hibernians duly opened their new stand at Hibernian Park, the stand used for the first time on 8th October 1881 for a Scottish Cup tie against St Bernard's, won 3-2 by Hibernian.
Laying a challenge to Authority
The difficulty being faced by Hibs now was that they were running out of players! The Club itself, run as it was by the CYMS and under the rules of that organisation, was restricted to recruiting their players only from the Catholic community, which to all intents meant the Irish immigrant community. Worse than that however, Hibernians had to abide by the rules of the Edinburgh F.A. in that all players with member clubs had to live and work in the local area. The greens had identified many players in their travels around Scotland who would fit the Hibernians profile perfectly, but whom they could not recruit because of these rules.
The local player rule in particular was stifling the growth not just of Hibernians but every member club in the Edinburgh Football Association. The larger and more successful clubs on a national level were still mainly those in the West of the country who did not face any such limitations, and while Hibernians in particular where beginning to make inroads of that dominance they were effectively doing so wearing shackles.
The strictly amateur status of the club did not help either, that problem becoming apparent when Hibernians player Willie Cox was enticed to Accrington Stanley who promised to fix him up with a job. The rewards might have changed over the years, but the result was the same, a good footballer leaving Hibernians for better pickings in England.
Success however continued for Hibernians, as having disposed of Hearts in the first round of the new Edinburgh F.A. Shield competition, the club reached the final against St Bernard's. Around 8,000 supporters, most of them backing the Irishmen, turned out for a game that Hibs won 4-2 and thus retained their title as Champions of Edinburgh.
In spite of this success, the greens were still determined to change the local player rule, and they tested the water a bit when they invited James McGhee, a player from Ayrshire, to join the club on a tour of England. During that tour, the club also arranged to 'borrow' Willie Struthers, a former Glasgow Rangers player then with Bolton Wanderers.
Hibernians ended that tour undefeated against three top-class English clubs, and once again made many new friends among the Lancashire Irish community.
Hibernians beat Hearts 4-2 in the first match of the newly named Edinburgh F.A. Shield, formerly the Edinburgh F.A. Cup.
The Club open a new stand at Hibernian Park, used for the first time on 8th October 1881 for a Scottish Cup tie against St Bernard's.
Hibernians beat St Bernard's in the final of the first Edinburgh F.A. Shield.
The greens go against the local player rules and invite Ayrshire-based James McGhee to play for the Club on a tour of England.
Written as part of 'The Origins of Hibernian' series