Even on Saturday, however, he was unaware just how different. The players had done their part and had benefited from the support of the 12,000 or more Hibs fans who had made the journey through from Edinburgh. Now it was the turn of Fenlon to respect the fans by doing what it is that they do best, which is singing Sunshine on Leith. It doesn’t often get an airing in Mount Florida, let’s be frank. But it did on Saturday, and, who knows, it may get another one after the final whistle on 19 May. Fenlon stood stock still, and made it clear that he wouldn’t welcome the intrusion of an excitable player, one who might threaten to break the spell.
Leigh Griffiths had leapt into his arms at the end, nearly knocking his manager over. On this occasion, it was an acceptable assault. But in those few minutes when the supporters, rather than the players, became the entertainers, Fenlon wanted the time and space to cherish the moment, and why not? “I have been here before, for cup finals particularly,” he said afterwards. “They are great occasions. And I have seen a few semi-finals as well. It’s just great to see. Normally you are around the other side sitting in the stand. I spoke to the some of the supporters about the last time they were here [for the CIS Insurance Cup final in 2007] and it was such a fantastic occasion.
“I thought I would have a look at it and see. Hopefully there will be a few more singing it after the cup final as well. I have been coming over for a fair few years to watch games here. It is something I have done. I like Hampden. It has a special feeling about the place. Even though it has changed, it still has a lot of the character it had previously.”
There has been little else to take satisfaction from during his short reign, as Hibs have flirted with relegation and dealt with reports of internal strife. Fenlon toasted victory by heading to Dublin to be with his family, and where he watched yesterday’s semi-final on television. Before Hibs can focus on Hearts they need to re-engage with a task that must – even given the result from Hampden Park in the other semi-final - dominate their thoughts in the immediate future. Survival. But that will surely be achieved on the back of such a morale-boosting win.
No team packing the kind of punch able to be provided by Garry O’Connor and Leigh Griffiths should be mired in a relegation fight. The pair won Hibs the game on Saturday and sped off to celebrate together at the end.
Griffiths had the thrill of knowing that, as well as scoring the winner, there was the extra bonus of escaping a booking immediately after his fine finish, which floored Aberdeen and handed his side a 2-1 victory.
It isn’t every day a Hibs supporter scores the goal which takes the Easter Road club to the Scottish Cup final, but Griffiths’ extravagant celebration meant he flirted with the danger of a yellow card – and what could have been an especially agonising cup final suspension.
Illustrating the size of task Fenlon has had in attempting to install discipline and also bring some wit to the ranks had been Griffiths’ decision to stick a baby’s dummy down his sock prior to the biggest match of his career, and following a series of suspensions for injudicious post-goal celebrations.
The tucking of a dummy – to salute the imminent birthdays of his two children, born 11 days apart – into his sock is not itself an offence, but leaving the pitch might have been viewed as one had referee Willie Collum been in a more cheerless mood.
But perhaps one of the strengths of both Griffiths and O’Connor is their very gallusness. Ivan Sproule spoke later of room-mate O’Connor’s confidence that he would score at Hampden.
And not only this, but that it would come early in the game. “When he wasn’t snoring, he was telling me that he was going to score early on,” he said, before describing the striker as a “big cuddly bear”.
“He has bags of confidence,” Sproule added. “He is a fantastic player – he would not have played where he has if he was not a good player. It wasn’t an easy finish. He had to touch it in.
“And then the ball through to Sparky at the end. You know that with those two up front you have a goal. That’s what I was trying to say as the game was going on, just keep ourselves in it. I knew we were always going to break and have more chances in us.”
Sproule will head to his garage in order to retrieve the green and white hat he wore following the victory over Kilmarnock in the CIS Insurance Cup final six years ago, and which earned Hibs a first major honour for 16 years. “That was the highlight of my career so far,” he said. “I still have that stupid hat in the garage. Hopefully I get the chance to wear it again.
“This is how you win the fans back. This is how you get the fans shouting for you again.”
The Northern Irish player saluted Fenlon, and expressed his view that the manager’s influence is now being brought to bear.
He acknowledged that some players might have taken longer than others to come round to his way of thinking, perhaps himself included.
“He has done a few things which I think have turned the season around, and which he will probably want to keep to himself,” said Sproule. “It is maybe hard sometimes to change older players who are used to a certain style. It’s hard to change their opinion on the way they want to do things, but he has definitely done that.
“He is putting an attitude in everyone that he wants – and it’s now taking the team in the right direction.
“He is approachable, but don’t approach him if you have nothing decent to approach him about,” he added. “He is a professional man. He wants things done right.
“He wanted to sit back and analyse things and he has done that. I think you will see the best of him next season, but hopefully we can finish this one on a real high.”
Fenlon himself contemplated what would be a remarkable turnaround in fortunes, particularly given the identity of Hibs’ cup final opponents. “It can be a good season if we end up staying in the league and winning the Scottish Cup,” he said. “Then people would see it as one of the best seasons Hibs have had. It’s very ironic, I suppose.”