Throughout the years there have been many tremendous clashes between Hibernian and Celtic in the Scottish Cup and tonight’s fixture promises to be no different.
The very first meeting of the sides in the competition took place at Easter Road just a few days after Christmas in 1894. Despite being recognised as the tie of the round, the game was watched by a relatively poor crowd of only around 3,000; many of the home support still aggrieved at the part perceived to have been played by the Glaswegian side in the near demise of the club just a few years earlier.
The game, against the then First Division champions would end in a 2-0 victory for the Easter Road side. However, Celtic’s protest that Hibs had fielded a couple of ineligible players would later be upheld by the authorities and a replay ordered, the game to take place back at Easter Road, although somewhat bizarrely both the Hibs players at the centre of the Celtic protest had been allowed to take part. This time however on a snow covered Easter Road pitch, a Celtic side that at that time were still wearing vertical green and white striped jerseys, would end 2-0 victors, the win allowing them to take their place in the next round where they would be beaten 1-0 by Dundee at Dens Park.
Hibs had briefly gone out of business in 1891, one of several reasons being that many of their best players had joined the recently formed Celtic. The club had been reformed in time to take its place in the inaugural Second Division in 1893, winning the championship at the end of the season. At that time promotion and relegation was not yet automatic, relying instead on re-election, and third placed Clyde were voted into the top league instead. However, after winning the title again the following season, Hibs could not possibly be denied a second time and the club took its place in the Scottish First Division for the very first time.
Both Hibs and Celtic would not meet again in the Scottish Cup for several years, but after Hibs defeat in the 1896 Scottish Cup Final by Edinburgh rivals Hearts in 1896, a game that probably came too soon for the recently promoted side, by 1901 the club was ready to take things a stage further. Now, after victories over Clyde, Port Glasgow and Queens Park, a 2-0 victory against champions elect Rangers at Ibrox in the semi-final had set up an all green final against Celtic.
With the present Hampden not yet ready, that year’s final was to have taken place at Ibrox. Unfortunately, tragic events during the Scotland versus England game the previous week when 25 people had been killed and well over 500 injured when part of the flimsy wooden terracing behind one of the goals had collapsed led to the final being postponed. It would later be decided, that although it was the home ground of one of the participants that the final would now go ahead at Parkhead, the proceeds from the sale of tickets to the Grandstand donated to the Ibrox Disaster Fund.
On Saturday 26th April 1902 the teams took the field at a windswept Parkhead. Celtic had been installed as red-hot favourites, not only because of the advantage of the game taking place at their home ground, but also because of their recent impressive record in the competition, reaching the previous three finals and winning two.
At the kick-off it was obvious from the start that the swirling wind blowing from goalmouth to goalmouth would make conditions difficult for both sides and spoil the game as a spectacle for the 16,000 crowd. With the wind at their backs in the first-half, Celtic were by far the more dominant side with Hibs having to be at their very best against the at times incessant pressure by the home team, but despite Celtic’s near dominance the half would end goalless.
In the second-half and now using the blustery conditions to their advantage, Hibs were the better side although they were forced to survive a scare when Celtic hit the post. Shortly after, Hibs Welsh international Bobby Atherton thought he had given his side the lead only for the goal to be chalked off for offside. A goal however would not be long in coming. Callaghan took a corner for Hibs on the right, and according to legend Atherton had shouted for a Celtic defender to ‘leave it’ allowing McGeachan to back-heel the ball into the net. Disputed or not it would be the goal that would give Hibs their second Scottish Cup Final success.
At a short ceremony in the Alexander Hotel in Glasgow after the game, the Hibs President Phillip Farmer, great-uncle of the present owner Sir Tom Farmer, was presented with the coveted trophy before the triumphant party made its way to Queen Street Station for the journey back to Edinburgh. Arrangements had been made for the party to disembark at Haymarket Station where the players and officials were met by a huge crowd and the rousing music of a brass band, before boarding a Four-in Hand that would take the party back to Easter Road. All the way along Princes Street, Leith Street and London Road the route was crammed with jubilant supporters. The traffic was brought to a grinding halt at the bottle-neck of the North Bridge and Waterloo Place, the jubilant supporters all fully aware of just what a momentous occasion it was for the city. On reaching the ground the victorious party including the injured McCartney who had been injured in the semi-final, would celebrate well into the night.
The teams that day were as follows:
Hibernian: Rennie, Gray and Glen, Breslin, Harrower and Robertson, McCall, McGeachan, Divers, Callaghan and Atherton
Celtic: McFarlane, Watson and Battles, Lonie, Marshall and Orr, McCafferty, McDermott, McMahon, Livingston and Quinn
It would not end there. Just a few weeks later after defeating Rangers in the semi-final, Hibs would again face Celtic in a cup final, this time for the Glasgow Charity Cup. It would be the third time that the Easter Road side had participated in the competition, the first in 1887 and again in 1888, losing in the first round on both occasions. Now they were to go much further and actually win the competition.
The game took place on 31st May 1902 on what was then Queens Park’s home ground at Second Hampden, later to be renamed Catkin Park after the amateur side had moved to the present Hampden in 1903. Five ahead at the interval, Celtic had no answer to Hibs dominance until scoring twice late in the game, with Hibs themselves scoring again in the second-half to complete an emphatic 6-2 victory to take the cup back to Edinburgh, the first time it had left the West of Scotland.
It was an exciting time for the club. The following season Hibs would win the League Championship for the first time and the club would compete in the Glasgow Charity Cup competition for the very last time. Celtic gained sweet revenge for defeat the previous season by beating the Edinburgh side 5-0 in the first round after a 0-0 draw, both games played at what was now Third Lanark’s home ground Cathkin.
Since then there have been many titanic meetings between the sides in the Scottish Cup competition including several finals, tonight’s game giving each side the opportunity to progress all the way to this year’s final at Hampden in May.
Written by Tom Wright