Hibernians win the Scottish Cup for the first time whilst also securing another Edinburgh Association Shield.
Hibernians had another crack at the Scottish Cup and progressed once again to the semi-final in the 1886/87 season, having disposed of Hearts by a 5-1 margin along the way. Vale of Leven this time stood between the Irishmen and a place in the national final, and this time there was to be no despair for the packed Holy Ground as Hibernians, inspired by Willie Groves, won 3-1.
Good losers were hard to find in these days however, and Vale of Leven immediately lodged a protest, claiming that Willie Groves had been receiving illegal payments from the club. This was an extremely serious accusation and given the treatment Hibernians had thus far received from the football authorities, even more so.
The Finest Hour and a Half
The Club had reached both the Scottish Cup and Edinburgh F.A. Cup finals, but their biggest battle was with officialdom, as the SFA decided to hear the Vale of Leven complaint just three days before Hibernians were due to face Dumbarton in the Scottish Cup Final. Several clubs were giving Vale of Leven support in their claims, notably Heart of Midlothian; somewhat ironic given the support that Hibernians had provided the Gorgie club in similar circumstances in 1985. Indeed at the SFA appeal hearing, Vale of Leven were represented by one Mr Spence, a former Hearts committee member. At that hearing, no decision was taken with Vale of Leven ordered to produce their documentary evidence at noon the following day. With a new hearing set for one week later, Hibernians now had to concentrate their thoughts on the final.
At Hampden Park, Hibernians were supported by Irishmen from all over Scotland and indeed the ferries from Dublin and Belfast were packed with supporters wishing to see if the Edinburgh Irishmen could upset all the odds. One can only imagine the pride that Canon Hannan and Michael Whelahan must have felt that day, but with the pride came the pressure of carrying the hopes and aspirations of so many on their shoulders.
Opponents Dumbarton were rightly the hot favourites to win the trophy, and so Saturday 12th February 1887 was a day of hope for Scotland's Irish community. This was not just a game of football, it was the day that the immigrant community had long awaited, the day when they could announce to the native Scots that they were here to stay and were more than proud to be regarded as Scottish Champions.
A mighty Hampden roar welcomed captain James McGhee and his side as the support for Hibernians vastly outnumbered that of their opponents. Dumbarton scored first in the second half with a brilliantly taken goal, but the favourites then made a massive error in judgement - they tried to hold on to their narrow lead.
The fighting, never-say-die qualities of Hibernians had clearly not filtered through to Dumbarton, and the Irish erupted when Phil Clarke equalised for the greens. They were to do so again when Willie Groves embarked on a run through the Dumbarton defence, ending with the ball once again in the back of the net. The final minutes was a crescendo of noise, the final whistle sounded, the final score 2-1 to the greens, and the incredible had happened. Hibernian Football Club had won the Scottish Cup.
The Hibernians team in the 1887 Scottish Cup Final was:
John Tobin, James Lundie, James McGhee, Peter McGinn, James McLaren, James Montgomery, Willie Groves, Paddy Lafferty, George Smith and Phil Clarke.
The Irish community around Scotland were delighted, but nowhere more than in Little Ireland where it had all started. Mass communication was a thing of the future, but all the same it did not take long for the news to break in Edinburgh. The pubs and streets were mobbed with ecstatic Irish Scots, and when news spread that Hibernians would return to Waverley Station at 10pm, the station was completely taken over by the crowds awaiting their arrival. The victory procession carried Hibernians and the Scottish Cup along Princes Street to the Tron and into Little Ireland. Watching all these proceedings quietly in the background was Canon Edward Hannan.
The accusation of professionalism still hung over Hibernians, who perhaps might have expected to receive even less of a fair hearing at the SFA. In fact, the case was found not proven on the casting vote of the president of the association. Vale of Leven however were nothing if not determined and immediately appealed yet again. Perhaps it was a fit of conscience, but in the end Vale of Leven withdrew their appeal at the very moment it was to be heard, and what had been a particular vicious attack on the integrity of Hibernians was brought to a close.
The SFA handed over the trophy to James McGhee and brought it back to Edinburgh, where Little Ireland could look on the 'Hibernian' inscription as the trophy was displayed win the windows of city stores and subsequently within St Patrick's Church.
The Hibernian team of 1886/87
Standing left to right: Player 1, James McGhee, Player 2, Peter McGinn, Player 3 and Phil Clarke
Middle left to right: Player 4, Player 5, John Tobin, James McLaren, Player 6 and Willie Groves
Front left to right: James Lundie, George Smith and Player 7
Completing a Cup double
Hibernians rounded off their greatest moment in history in emphatic fashion, running out 3-1 winners over Hearts at Powderhall in the final of the Edinburgh F.A. Shield. There was no finer football side in the nation.
It would be easy to overlook the achievement of that Hibernians side of 1887 in winning the Scottish Cup in relationship to the failure of the club to shine in that particular tournament for many a year. However Queen's Park, who had instigated the competition in 1873, had won the trophy 8 times with Vale of Leven, the other giants of these early football days in Scotland, taking the trophy 3 times. Only Dumbarton and Renton had broken this mould, and so Hibernians had become just the fifth name to be added to the trophy.
Vale of Leven lodge a protest against Hibernians paying players illegally after the greens beat them in a Scottish Cup Semi Final.
Hibernians win their first Scottish Cup, beating Dumbarton 2-1 in the final.
Vale of Level eventually drop the protest against Hibernians.
The greens also win the Edinburgh Association Shield by running out 3-1 winners against Hearts in the final.
Written as part of 'The Origins of Hibernian' series