On sunday, just over three weeks on from losing his job as manager of Hibernian, Pat Fenlon is back on the sideline managing the Bohs XI in Owen Heary’s tribute game.
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Fenlon, but he’s confident he left the Edinburgh club in a better state then he found them in.
“I was happy with the way I left the club – I went in and we were staring relegation in the face and I think I got them to seventh from 11th in my first full season. I left the club five points behind second place and got to two cup finals. We had a couple of bad results and Europe was obviously a nightmare, but it’s a great club and I’ve left it on good terms and hope they can kick on from here.”
Over the course of his time in Scotland Fenlon was a cast member in one of the most dramatic Scottish Cup semi finals in recent history. Travelling to Hampden to take on and beat lowly Falkirk was seen as a formality. Thirty minutes in and Fenlon’s Hibs were staring at a three-goal deficit and a team that could do no wrong.
“It was probably the lowest point and highest point in the same 90 minutes that I had there. Coming up to half time thinking ‘Jesus we need to get them in here quick and see if we can get them settled down and change the shape and change the system and nick a goal’. And fortunately we did that, we made a couple of changes and the young lads we brought on that day were different class. So you go from being deflated to pure elation at the end of it.”
A 4-3 win in extra-time led Fenlon and Hibs to their second Scottish Cup Final in two years. A defeat to Celtic meant they came up short again, but it’s something that Fenlon still takes great pride in. “We had some good days and we had some bad ones. Beating Celtic last year at Easter Road was a good occasion, going to Parkhead and getting a point was good and beating Hearts last year in the last Edinburgh Derby meant we went the entire season without losing to them which was important after the cup final disaster the year before.”
On Sunday Fenlon will watch on, and maybe even put on the boots, as the great Shels European team of 2004 take on the Bohs title winning side of 2009 — all to celebrate the career of one of the League of Ireland’s greatest servants. Fenlon has seen enough of Heary to know exactly what kind of man he is.
“We’ve had so many good times together, we played together in the first year at Shels and the double winning team , and then obviously as a manager of both Shels and Bohs we had great occasions – big days, league championships, FAI Cup finals, League Cup finals, Setanta Cup finals, I suppose we’ve done most of it – but probably Deportivo is the big one that stands out – him leading the team out in such a high profile game at the time will always be special”
While over in Scotland Fenlon witnessed the rivalry first hand between Edinburgh’s two biggest clubs. But how does the Bohs and Shamrock Rovers rivalry weigh up against that of Hearts and Hibs?
Fenlon at Easter Road. Pic:INPHO/Greg Macvean
“Rivalry is rivalry – the difference is the size of the rivalry. You’re talking 15,000 at a Hearts vs Hibs game. It’s a small city Edinburgh and there’s only two clubs in it – Dublin’s a big city and there’s a few clubs in it so it’s probably not as intense, but on the day its every bit as intense. I’ve been to Bohs versus Rovers games as a supporter, as a player and a manager so I know what its all about, but the Hearts-Hibs one is tasty.”
Fenlon’s cameo on Sunday may not be the last time we see him on the line in Ireland over the next 12 months, but despite whispers he has no immediate plans to get back in the dugout. “You never know, football is a funny game and things change from day to day. Three weeks ago I was managing Hibs, this week I’m not doing anything. I never get set in things where you try plan in football because you can’t plan, it changes very regularly.”
“If something happens short term then we’ll take a look and if something happens further down the road then we’ll wait and see.”
Having so much history with both Bohs and Shels, Fenlon struggles to choose which one supplied him with better memories. “Linfield! No, I’ve had great times at both, when I was here at Bohs as a player it was a fabulous club and we were a bit unfortunate we didn’t win and league title, we lost one on a 4 way playoff – it was just madness after even finishing top on goal difference, that was probably one thing that stuck with me that I didn’t win a league here at Bohs as a player. But I have great memories of Shels as well so it’s too tough to call.”
One of those Bohs memories was a night in 1993 when he lined out against none other then Zinedine Zidane, Christophe Dugarry and Bixente Lizarazu – who were playing with Bordeaux at the time.
“We played Bordeaux who had a lot of top players at that stage and we did well against them here but they battered us in Bordeaux. He (Zidane) didn’t really stand out but there were other big name players like Lizarazu and Duggary in that team — they had some real good players but they were all young then — he did alright for himself after that I suppose.”