Football/Soccer

Neil Lennon willing to place faith in teenager Karamoko Dembele for Scottish Cup final against Hearts

Celtic's Karamoko Dembele (fourth from right) playing for Celtic's U14 team against Finn Harps at the Foyle Cup in Derry 
Diarmuid Pepper

If recent form is anything to go by, Celtic’s encounter with Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final this Saturday could be a relatively straight forward affair for the Parkhead side.

The two sides have met five times this season, with Celtic the victors on all but one of these occasions.

In November, Celtic drubbed Hearts 5-0 in the league, but in the final game of the season last weekend it was a much closer affair.

With less than 90 seconds gone on the clock, Celtic youngster Michael Johnston rifled the ball into the roof of the net to give Celtic the lead.

In the 84th minute, Johnston doubled his tally when he curled the ball into the bottom corner of the net from outside the box.

Neil Lennon’s side were able to claim the win despite fielding a side full of youth in anticipation of the Scottish Cup final.

Sixteen-year-old Karamoko Dembele came off the bench at half-time much to the delight of the fans and Lennon is leaving the door open for the prodigious Dembele to make a cameo in the Cup final.

Lennon told Celtic TV: “He’s certainly put himself forward for selection for the squad. He’s training this week, he’s fit, he’s available. I’ve no hesitation in bringing him into the squad this week.”

Ahead of the showdown in Hampden, Celtic are also boosted by the news that Kieran Tierney will be fit for the final.

 

Celtic's Kieran Tierney celebrating a goal at Celtic Park.

 

However, he is due to have a double hernia operation after Saturday’s game.

Tierney hasn’t featured for Celtic since the 4th May, when the club retained the Scottish Premiership for an eight successive time with victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

Tierney has made a lot of appearances for Celtic this season, 40 in total in all competitions, but has struggled with injury in the second half of the season.

"It started off as something else and it led to this, but it's nothing long-term, the operation will fix it and that's the good news," Tierney said.

While Celtic have received good news on the injury front ahead of the game, Hearts haven’t been so lucky.

Manchester United loanee Demetri Mitchell and veteran Stevie Naismith have been ruled out with knee injuries. Meanwhile, influential midfielder Arnaud Djoum is also expected to miss out with an Achilles problem.

Closer to home, local teenager Bobby Burns is holding out hope that he might make a dream appearance for Hearts in the Cup final.

The former Glenavon midfielder said: "I'd love to play in the final. It would be the biggest game of my career so far, though even to be in the squad at my age for a match like that would be great.”

 

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