Five years ago there was concern when regular goalkeeper Mark Oxley picked up a booking in the quarter-final replay against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, ruling him out of the semi-final trip to Hampden.
That prompted manager Alan Stubbs to do a quick trawl of available goalies he could sign on a short-term basis and he landed himself a massive haul, literally and figuratively, as in walked Conrad Logan.
A former Leicester City player, injury lay-offs had left him out of condition and his new colleagues couldn’t fail to notice that when he first arrived at Hibs’ East Mains training centre.
“The thing was I knew the big man from down south and I had been telling the lads that he was a good keeper and that he would be a good signing,” recalls the current Livingston captain. “I knew he had had a couple of injuries but I didn’t know the shape he was in so when he walked in you should have seen the looks I was getting, but I had to back myself.
“I was thinking: ‘I can’t say I might have got it wrong, I’m going to have to just hope he can still do the business but I think we were all a bit worried.
“I thought: ‘We have some big games coming up and I hope the big man is up to it’ but he showed in the cup that he was worth his weight in gold and that’s a lot! He was brilliant for us, especially in that semi-final.”
Panenka – ‘a stupid thing to do’
The Irishman proved to be the unlikely hero, earning his team-mates’ respect thanks to his surprisingly-agile contribution during the match and in extra time, and he then ensured enduring cult status in Leith by pulling off two saves in the subsequent penalty shoot-out.
That set the stage for Jason Cummings to redeem himself in the minds of his colleagues and the Hibs fans after his trademark gallusness denied his side victory in regulation time.
Presented with a spot-kick after Fraser Fyvie’s cross hit Coll Donaldson’s arm, the maverick forward chose that stage, that moment, to attempt a Panenka. It backfired, and the ball pinged over the crossbar, causing some half-time tensions in the usually-tight Hibs dressing room.
“Some of the boys were really laying into him, rightly so,” remembers Bartley. “I just think a lot of the boys were in disbelief because it was such a stupid thing to do. When I saw it go over, my head was absolutely gone but by half-time I had calmed down a bit and I knew he didn’t need me on his back as well.
“I felt we still had a lot of the game to go and centre-forwards like Cummy, they are game winners, and he was in no doubt that he owed the whole team one for that.
“But he is one of those characters and, look, he tried it and he failed but he then went on to score in the penalty shootout and that was vital.
“To this day, I still don’t know where it came from. It’s not like he practiced that sort of thing in training. He must have been watching YouTube the night before and thought ‘I’m going to try that tomorrow if we get a penalty in the semi-final of the national cup’. I think he has said that he considered trying it again in the penalty shootout. Thankfully, he didn’t but that sums him up.”
After John McGinn, Paul Hanlon and Martin Boyle scored Hibs’ first three spot-kicks in the do-or-die shoot-out, and Logan had two saved two of United‘s first four penalties, it was Cummings who stepped up to bury the decisive effort and seal Hibs’ progres to the final, where they ended over a century of hurt, defeating Rangers to win the Scottsh Cup for the first time in 114 years.
Third time lucky, again?
In just over a week, Hibs return to Hampden and against a bottom six ranked United side, who have been unable to better them in any of their previous three meetings this term, they look favourites to book a place in another Scottish Cup final – their first since 2016.
Following the heartbreak of their two earlier last-four visits there this season, the Leith side will walk back out onto that hallowed turf, on May 8, hoping that it is third time lucky.
They lost by fine margins in the head to head with city rival Hearts during the postponed staging of the 2019/20 Scottish Cup semi final in October, then returned to the national stadium in January, this time to face St Johnstone in the last four of the League Cup, but they sold themselves short.
But, drawn to meet United in the battle for a place in this season’s Scottish Cup finale, Bartley says there are echoes of the successful 2015/16 cup run.
Like Stubbs’ team, Jack Ross’ men will head along the M8 fuelled by the ambition to end a hugely-positive campaign with a trophy after two near misses.
“I know how that feels. We were heartbroken to lose the League Cup final and then miss out on promotion and there was a determination in the latter stages of that Scottish Cup run. We didn’t want to experience that pain again.
“You also know you’ve had a decent season and you want a medal or some silverware to show for that. These guys will be the same, they have been one of the best and one of the most consistent teams in the league this year but having come so far in the cups, they will want to finally lift one.”