Fenlon backs Hibs to put it up to Celtic

Pat Fenlon’s Hibernian are a stratosphere away from Celtic’s financial muscle but the Irishman is predicting a close battle when the pair meet in the Scottish Cup final.

Fenlon faces the ultimate test of his burgeoning managerial career on May 26 at Hampden Park when his charges face the runaway SPL leaders.

Assessing their respective budgetary positions presents only one outcome from the decider but Fenlon cites his side’s record in three meetings this term as reason for optimism of an upset.

Celtic’s exploits in the Champions League this season, which yielded a last-16 tie against Juventus, is estimated to net them €40m from prize money and television income.

Fenlon has had to live within the limits of a €1.5m annual wage bill for players, illustrated by the decision of Irish striker Eoin Doyle last week to accept a better offer from League Two Chesterfield to join in the summer.

Back in Dublin for a short break following the epic semi-final win over Falkirk on Saturday when they overcame a three-goal deficit to prevail 4-3 in extra-time, the former Shelbourne and Bohemians boss sounded upbeat despite the financial gulf between the teams.

“We have a decent record against Celtic this year. We’ve played them three times, won one, lost one and drawn one and two of them were in Parkhead,” he said.

“So you go into the final confident. And I think the key to it is that over the next five league games we have got to start picking up a few results and go into the game confident.”

The blow of missing out on the top-six split has been compensated to some degree by the Cup run, which has guaranteed European football next season.

Such is their restrictions, however, that even the option of snaffling a bargain from the Airtricity League pool of talent is off-limits.

He said: “It’s great to reach the final again. After losing last year’s final so badly to Hearts, it would be great to win it. We know how difficult it will be — but to have European qualification is a big plus for everybody.

“There’s more money in the pot now but I will have to speak to the chairman (about the budget). Please God there will be more money to spend on players.

“The League of Ireland is a difficult one because I know the clubs here need the money and we don’t have any money to spend on transfer fees.

“To come in and ask them to sell their players to us for little or no money is unfair. There are one or two who could play in our league but whether we are able to bring in any more Irish boys, I’m not too sure.”

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