David Gray eager to repeat Hibs' Scottish Cup heroics

The road to Hampden began yesterday for some of the clubs propping up Scottish football's pyramid, teams who will accept that their best chance of starring at the national stadium is likely to be a future tie against Queen's Park.

David Gray made the draw for the first round of the Scottish Cup. Picture: SNS

However, there is no doubt in the mind of David Gray that Hibernian can repeat May’s heroics and return to defend the trophy it took so agonisingly long for the club to finally get their hands on.

Gray, who will forever be indelibly linked with the cup, was at Edinburgh College in the capital to help make the draw for the first round of 
this season’s competition, a process that paired Selkirk with Linlithgow Rose, Edinburgh University with Whitehill Welfare and Leith Athletic with Cumbernauld Colts.

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For those sides involved there was a sense of anticipation but it was a long way from the excitement and unbridled joy visible on 21 May when Gray played the perfect captain’s role in ending Hibs’ tortuous 114-year wait for the famous silverware.

On so many occasions following their previous triumph of 1902, Hibs had their dreams shattered but, thanks to their skipper’s majestic header in injury time, on this occasion they were to make history.

The Easter Road outfit last week launched “Persevered”, a 114-venue tour of the trophy designed to engage with current supporters and collect new ones, but it has been following impromptu meetings with fans that Gray has slowly come to terms with the 
magnitude of his and his team-mates’ achievement.

“I still don’t think it has fully sunk in,” he commented. “I’m very grateful and honoured to have had the opportunity
to be captain on that day – and then the way things have turned out have been surreal. It’s hard to put it into words, to be honest.

“Growing up in Edinburgh I always knew it would be a massive thing for Hibs to go and win the Scottish Cup. After 114 years, they’ve obviously waited a long time.

“But it doesn’t really sink 
in until you hear stories 
from people saying ‘thanks very much, this is for my 
dad, I went to all these games with my dad’ or stories about people who are no longer with us.

“When you hear stories like that, it puts it into perspective how much it means to people. I think that’s when you fully realise what has happened.”

The cup success was an incredible pick-me-up for the Hibs squad and their followers following the bitter blow of their play-off semi-final defeat by Falkirk. Departed manager Alan Stubbs had at one point bullishly proclaimed his team’s ability to win a treble, only for the League Cup to slip away in March’s final against Ross County before the chances of promotion followed just weeks later.

The Scottish Cup monkey finally shaken off their backs, with the determined Neil Lennon, inset, now at the helm, there appears a steely resolve within Easter Road this season to ensure it is third time lucky in restoring the club to the Premiership. But they are not about to sit back and dine out on May’s historic triumph.

“I think when the time comes we have to do all we can to defend it. I don’t see why we can’t win it again,” added Gray. “Since I’ve been here we’ve had two good runs. In my first season, we were unfortunate to lose the semi-final to Falkirk, having dominated the game, and then we obviously went on to win it. We know if we play as well as we can play we can beat anyone.”

That is something they have so far achieved in the league this season. Only four games have elapsed but they sit atop the Championship table with a perfect record and Gray admits they simply have to follow up May’s celebrations by ending another, albeit shorter, wait and returning the club to the top flight after three years away.

“To end the season on a high was great and it’s great that we’ve got the feelgood factor at the start of the season. But it’s back to business now and the most important thing is to get promoted,” he went on. “Hibs need to be in the Premiership and we’re fully aware of that. That’s got to be the main objective.

“All the stuff with the 
Scottish Cup is great but more importantly we’ve started the season well and we just have to keep pushing on now.”

Scottish Cup first-round draw:

Turriff United v Bonnyrigg Rose

Leith Athletic v Cumbernauld Colts

Fort William v Brora Rangers

Forres Mechanics v Lossiemouth

East Kilbride v Vale of Leithen

BSC Glasgow v Rothes

Deveronvale v Gretna 2008

Keith v Banks O’Dee

Edinburgh University v Whitehill Welfare

Gala Fairydean Rovers v Fraserburgh

Beith Juniors OR Auchinleck Talbot v Strathspey Thistle

Civil Service Strollers v Hawick Royal Albert

Nairn County v Preston Athletic

Inverurie Loco Works v Buckie Thistle

Clachnacuddin v University of Stirling

Dalbeattie Star v Wick Academy

Selkirk v Linlithgow Rose

Girvan v Huntly

Ties will be played on Saturday, 24 September, and should a game go to extra time in a replay, clubs will be permitted to introduce a fourth substitute.