Celtic women's football team had hoped yesterday to take the Scottish Cup back to Parkhead for Tommy Burns, in whose memory they were wearing black armbands.

It was Burns, in his capacity as head of the Celtic academy, who put the Parkhead women and girls teams in place. He was an advocate of football for all. But it was not to be Celtic's day. They succumbed 3-1 to a more experienced and organised Hibernian side who have now won the cup in four of the last six seasons.

Female football is burgeoning in Scotland. Most teams use the description ladies. Cowdenbeath use the word women and in Forfar they call themselves lasses.

There were times during this cup final when the term dirty midden sprang to mind. That is dirty midden as in uncompromising in the tackle. Even the father of Hibs fullback Frankie Brown admits: "Not much gets past Frankie."

At the heart of the Hibs midfield is a dark assassin by the name of Mandy Burns, who is no stranger to a yellow or even a red card.

Fittingly, there was nothing of the powder-puff about this ladies final. There were many tasty encounters between Burns and Jenny Beattie - who is big, powerful, good with her feet, and a lovely mover. Just like her dad John was when he played rugby for Scotland.

In the Parkhead tradition, Celtic have a small red-headed right-winger. Her name is Christie Murray and she delighted with her feints and lovely touches.

It was a close-fought game which is not always the case in ladies football. Hibernian disposed of Aberdeen University 19-0 in the second round. This final, though, was evenly-matched in the 90 minutes of regular play. Celtic, with a plethora of individual skills on display, tried to hustle the favourites but Hibs remained composed, as you would expect from a team with nine Scottish international players in the line-up.

Hibs are built on a substantial spine. Gemma Fay, the Scottish goalie, hardly put a hand wrong all game, although she was lucky to get away with upending Murray when the Celtic winger was in a goal-scoring position in the penalty box.

At the heart of the Hibs team is Michelle "Shelley" Kerr. captain and centre-back, partnered by the sure-footed Stacey Cook, who was named player of the match.

Celtic held their game together until tiredness kicked in during extra time. Joelle Murray seized on a loose ball in the penalty area in the seventh minute of extra time to open the scoring.

Seven minutes later, Burns popped up in the Celtic area to punish further defensive confusion with a shot from close range. Suzanne Grant, a stylish and prolific striker, put the game beyond doubt for Hibs with a cheeky chip over Claire Johnston. The Celtic goalkeeper had put in a first-class performance, including a couple of fine saves.

Leanne Crichton scored Celtic's consolation goal with 10 minutes to go.

The attendance at McDiarmid Park in Perth was sparce, with only one of the four stands half-full. This entertaining final deserved better, especially with entry being free. A group of Celtic fans had turned up to sing loud and occasionally inappropriate songs about Rangers. They tried to redeem themselves by comparing goalkeeper Johnston favourably to Artur Boruc.

The same men also launched frequent choruses of "We love you, we love you, and where you go we'll follow..." which was much nicer than all the other stuff.

Celtic, incidentally, had two former Hibs players on board, hoping to turn the tables on their former team-mates. The recruitment of Suzanne Robertson and Suzanne Malone by the newly-founded Celtic ladies had shades of 1888, when a newly-founded Celtic men's team nicked quite a few players from Hibernian.

Malone had a busy day. She was with child as the teams lined up before the game. Keeping it in the family, the child in question was Colin Crichton, the Celtic mascot and nephew of Celtic scorer Leanne. Having been relieved of her baby-sitting duties, though, Malone found herself lying prone on the pitch within minutes of the start as the uncompromising Burns set the tone for the match and welcomed her back.