Scottish Cup final: James McPake hopes to be fit for Hibs

 

Captain James McPake is determined to lead Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final and has taken a pain-killing injection in an effort to be fit.

The defender returned to training on Tuesday, having missed the club's last three matches with a back injury.

"I'm trying everything to be as fit as I can to play," said the 28-year-old.

"I'm winning the battle at the moment and I'm desperate to play. Pain is not the issue, it's just if you can get through the game."

McPake is anxious to atone for last year's final when Hibs were crushed 5-1 by Edinburgh rivals Hearts, but the judgement on his participation against Celtic on Sunday will be down to manager Pat Fenlon and the club's medical staff.

"I think anyone will tell you that if there is any way you can play, you'll play, that's just the nature of every professional I've met," he explained.

"It's just what risk are you doing yourself and what risk are you putting the team in?"

Hibs are aiming to end an 111-year wait to lift the trophy for a third time, while Celtic are seeking a 35th success in the tournament.

"It's massive," added McPake. "I can remember saying at last year's final that I might never get the chance to play in one again.

Hibs striker Leigh Griffiths

McPake thinks team-mate Leigh Griffiths is the best striker in the SPL

"I'm pleasantly surprised that it's come around again so quick."

Fenlon took his team away to Ireland in the build up to last season's Hampden finale to escape the media frenzy surrounding the derby fixture.

However, this time the team are training as usual at their East Mains complex.

"There's a calmness about the squad," revealed McPake, who scored in the mauling from Hearts. "There is not the intensity around the place there was last year.

"There is a good, exciting feeling."

In McPake's absence, Hibs closed the Scottish Premier League season with three consecutive victories to finish in seventh place, 28 points behind Celtic.

"We're on the back of three decent results but they have been bottom six games, so we can't be over-confident," said the captain.

"We're in better form than we were last year when we just escaped relegation.

"As a club we are more confident.

"We are the underdogs - everyone knows that. Celtic won the league at a canter, they had a great European campaign and they are a top side with top players.

"But we've got quality in our squad. In my opinion, we have the best striker in the SPL.

"And I've no doubt that Celtic will be as fearful of Leigh Griffiths as we are of any of their strikers."