CELTIC expressed why they are the best side in the country on a sunny afternoon at the national stadium by blowing away a Hibs side who have improved this season and were much better than a year ago against Hearts but still showed there are considerable shortcomings.
A Scottish Cup and SPL double, as well as a run to the Champions League knockout stages, presents a triumphant campaign for the Glasgow side in a year in which they were expected to take a clean sweep in the silverware stakes in the absence of Old Firm rivals Rangers in the top division.
It hasn’t been entirely plain sailing but they have got there in the end. In terms of the final, it was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests and, from the moment they took the lead inside eight minutes, they didn’t look back and there was going to be only one outcome.
Hibs began brightly and should have been in front before conceding the first goal. If Eoin Doyle heads that either side of Fraser Forster, it’s 1-0 to Hibs and there would probably have been a totally different complexion.
The connection was far too central and the keeper has ended up making a brilliant reaction stop.
Such is the ruthless nature of a team of Celtic’s stature, they make you pay instantly.
Hibernian have struggled to deal with crosses all season long. It has undoubtedly been their achilles heel and this fraility was evident in the first half in particular.
Ryan McGivern doesn’t get back at the far post to track Gary Hooper. The cross was absolutely perfect with pace and directness from Stokes. It was a dream of a ball right on the money for Hooper, whose finish was difficult to execute but well accomplished.
Stokes and Hooper have been tearing defences apart in the SPL since they started working in tandon three years ago and it was like friends reunited today. The pair worked so well together.
Pat Fenlon won’t be happy at all about the defending for the goals which really was abysmal, as seen for the second when Stokes had all the time in the world to pick out his strike partner again.
Hibs struggled to create meaningful scoring opportunities in the opening 45 minutes. The lead was unassailable at half-time as Celtic were over the hills and far away.
Celtic and Gary Hooper showed their killer instinct to great effect and that was the difference. Joe Ledley has enjoyed an outstanding campaign and it was a fitting moment for him to add his name to the scoresheet in the second half having missed the final two years ago through injury.
It took him to double figures this season in terms of goals and is a player that has thrived on the big stage this term, establishing himself as one of the first names on Neil Lennon’s team sheet. He couldn’t have hit it any better.
It was a second half which didn’t light up but trust Scott Brown to spice the affair up with his usual tricks in starting a tussle over nothing. It at least woke many of us from our slumber as the pace and tempo seemed flat rather than the intense nature of the first half.
The talk about whether Neil Lennon will stay on as manager will loom large even more now after this victory. Whether he stays put or ups sticks is anyone’s guess but if was to make tracks, he would be leaving a successful club in a fruitful position having laid down the foundations to kick on to bigger and better things in the coming years.
People will question how Celtic could possibly build on this year’s success next season. For me, it’s quite simple. They can win the treble, which is no easy feat for any team in any league.
There is always room for improvement in any side and they could manage it if they hold on to their prized assets. Hibs didn’t play too badly but were beaten on the day by a far better team.
Losing Leigh Griffiths will be a monumental blow and will leave a huge void in attack and massive shoes to fill. Replacing his goals will be extremely difficult, but not as difficult as lifting the oldest cup in football it seems.
The long wait to lift the Scottish Cup for the Hibs fans goes on. If you’re counting, I make it 112 years.