As Hibs prepare to take on Rangers in the SWF U15s Youth Scottish Cup Final this Saturday, coaches Garry Darling and Sarah Archibald spoke to YFS about the journey to Oriam and what their team will need to do to get the better of their Glasgow opponents on the day.
Hibs began the tournament in May with a 3-0 victory over Lanarkshire Hibs:
“My favourite moment of our cup run was the victory over Lanarkshire Hibs,” said Darling. “Given the connection between the clubs we put in a cracking performance to win comfortably, but there was a bit of pressure on the girls and they handled it brilliantly.”
Since then, they have only gone from strength-to-strength in the competition; a bye past Drumchapel United was followed by another convincing win, this time against Deveronvale Girls:
“Our quarter-final win against Deveronvale would be my highlight,” revealed Archibald. “We were unfortunately without our keeper that game which was a real challenge.
“Deveronvale were a physical side but we managed the game really well and scored three excellent goals – and you can’t grumble with a clean sheet either.”
In fact, it wouldn’t be until the second half of the semi-final with Kilmarnock that Hibs would finally concede a Scottish Cup goal – but by that time they were already out of sight of the Ayrshire side and ended up winning the game 5-1.
Darling said: “The semi-final was a tremendous first-half performance from us.
“Leading 4-0 at half-time, it was just a case of managing the second half and we did that brilliantly.”
Archibald added: “I was delighted with the way we played; we moved the ball really well and with purpose.
“We had some great finishes for our goals and I feel like we thoroughly deserved to win in the manner we did.”
And now, only a few days away from the big match with Rangers, both coaches admit that cup final fever is starting to grip the squad:
“We had a training session [the other night] and you can feel the excitement – and maybe some anxiety – creeping in amongst the girls,” said Darling.
Archibald said: “Who doesn’t relish playing in a Scottish Cup Final and being part of that occasion?
“There’s a real buzz about the squad and that’s important in the lead up to Saturday.”
It will be a tough game; in Rangers, they’ll be up against the side who defeated National Performance League Champions, Celtic, in their semi-final and who have knocked out the likes of Central Girls and Glasgow City on their path to Oriam:
“There’s no doubt Rangers have some excellent players,” said Archibald. “They’ll pose a different challenge to us in their physicality through playing in a boys’ league.
“We will have to match that and more to come away with the win, but I do feel that if we can focus on playing to our own strengths and capabilities then there’s no reason why we can’t secure a consecutive Scottish Cup win.”
All the teams competing at Oriam this Saturday are expecting the backing of a large and loud crowd, and Hibs are no different – with both coaches agreeing that the crowd support could be a difference maker on the day:
“We’re hoping to have a good few supporters there,” said Darling. “The backing they give to the girls will be very important.”
Archibald added: “Our players parents are always out in force, and I’m hopeful there will be a good turn out in support from other academy players and coaches.
“Like in any sport, those who turn out to support you can often give you that last push to get on and win when you need it in big games like these – and I’m sure the Hibs support will do the same for us.”
And what is the last message they’ll give to the team before they step out in front of a big crowd on the big occasion?
For Darling, it’s simple.
He said: “I want the girls to go out and enjoy it and not sit with any regrets after the game.”