This was one of those rare occasions on which an individual performance becomes bigger than the event itself.
A game that started promisingly, but by the end of 120 minutes became an affront to football, had one redeeming quality – the play of debut goalkeeper Conrad Logan. An unlikely hero who almost single-handedly put Hibs back into the Scottish Cup final, allowing the fans to yet again dream of ending their infamous 114-year wait for glory.
A surprise star shining brightest on the grandest stage is not a narrative that is new to football. However, few would have envisioned Logan being that star as the players posed for their pre-match photos. Even through the baggy Hibs goalkeeping jersey, it was clear the stopper had been carrying a few extra pounds after a lengthy injury spell put paid to his career at Leicester City. In the end his unorthodox physique added to the overall charm of the story, not to mention the many crucial saves he made throughout the match.
In total, he faced three one-on-ones with United strikers. On all three occasions he repelled their efforts. As Jason Cummings said after the match: “He can shift for a big guy”. Having twice denied Billy Mckay, he then went into a final one-on-one duel with Henri Anier. This is where the game was ultimately settled. Talk about “Hibsing it”, here was a player going through on goal who had been an Easter Road player as recently as three months ago, a player who had been allowed to return to Tannadice even though Hibs had the option to keep him until the end of the season. Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs may never have lived down the decision if Anier had slipped the ball past the goalkeeper, yet Logan produced the goods yet again.
Then came the penalty kicks. At this point fate had already taken over. Those unaware of the fact were let in on the secret when Logan repelled Blair Spittal’s opening effort. When Mckay was denied again by Logan you wondered if it was physically possible to get the ball beyond him. Finally, Paul Dixon managed, after more than 120 minutes and two penalties, to get the job done, driving it into the bottom corner. Logan was human after all. Unfortunately for United, the damage had been done. Three penalties later Cummings atoned for his earlier miss to win the game for Hibs, though there was no doubting the man of the moment.
Having played it safe during the League Cup final, while opponents Ross County experimented and ultimately won the contest, Stubbs showed some bravery on his next trip to Hampden with the decision to select Logan. The Irishman hadn’t played since December 2014 when he snapped his Achilles tendon playing for Rochdale. When he signed for Hibs in March on a two-month contract, it was presumed he was here only to provide emergency cover due to Mark Oxley’s suspension. Otso Virtanen was the back-up goalkeeper. The 22-year-old was signed in January to a three-and-a-half-year deal, an indication that he is viewed as the future No.1.
He was the easy choice but Stubbs, having watched both players in training, went for the big lad, and boy did it pay off. Now the question is whether he will depose Oxley as No.1. Stubbs has gone from a goalkeeping crisis to a selection headache. “It’s pretty special. At the national stadium, in a semi-final, it’s fantastic. I just enjoyed every minute of it,” said Logan, clutching a bottle of Champagne. “I was chomping at the bit to get a game this season. I was confident that I was fit and ready to do it.
“Whether I play or not in the final is up to the manager. I’m just happy I’ve given him a decision to make.”
Regardless of what the future holds, he’ll always have this match, the perfect way to celebrate his 30th birthday, which arrives tomorrow. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.