NEIL Lennon last night admitted becoming the first man to win the treble as both a player and manager was the highlight of his career after Celtic’s thrilling William Hill Scottish Cup final win over Hearts.

Lennon’s side, who had led 2-0 in regulation time and 3-2 in extra-time at Hampden yesterday, beat Robbie Neilson’s team 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out after the rescheduled final finished 3-3 at the end of 120 minutes.

The Northern Irishman, who lifted every domestic trophy with the Parkhead club back in the 2000/01 campaign, confessed the achievement was his greatest in the game.

“It means everything,” he said. “To be the first person to achieve this? I don’t talk much about myself, but it feels so, so special. I’ve had some great moments, but this is the best. It means so much to me.

“I missed out on the treble the first time I was here as a manager. You’re thinking during the game that you can’t miss this opportunity because it might not come again, but it’s just monumental for me and my family.

“I’m very emotional. I’m trying to keep them all in at the minute, but it’s difficult. The build-up in the last couple of days has been horrible and I didn’t want this opportunity to go because it might not come round again.

“I’m so glad to be sitting here as a treble-winning manager. I’m feeling wonderful, I’m very, very proud. It’s a monumental achievement for the players, the club and for me personally. I couldn’t be more happy.”

Lennon added: “It’s quite unique and we’ll probably never see the likes of this again in our lifetimes. It’s just a shame there weren’t people here to witness what was a great cup final.

“I said before the game that we were coming up against a very, very good team and it shows just how difficult it is to win trophies. We were pushed all the way by a very good side.”

Lennon singled out his captain Scott Brown, goalkeeper Conor Hazard, match winner Kristoffer Ajer and assistant John Kennedy for special praise after the dramatic triumph.

Hazard was badly at fault for the Hearts’ equaliser in extra-time, but the young goalkeeper atoned for his mistake by saving from Stephen Kinglsey and Craig Wighton in the shoot-out.

“For Conor, it’s only his third senior game and he’s come up trumps with two fantastic saves,” said his manager.

“He should have done better with two of the goals, the second and third, and that’s something that we need to address, but he’s been training well and he is a good penalty saver and proved that today.

“He’s written his name down in the history of the club after only three games. He’s got a lot to do and a lot more improving to do, but we think he’s a talent.”

Lennon continued: “I’m thrilled for Kris Ajer, he was cramping at the end and I told him he was taking one because we practised them yesterday and he was brilliant in practice. He was magnificent today and I’m so happy for him.

“I thought Scott Brown did brilliant for the third goal, and I was totally vindicated in starting him today. I’m so proud of them.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, winning trophies, and to win 12 in a row is just an incredible achievement for the players and the club.

“I want to tribute to my backroom team, John Kennedy in particular. He had been with me since I came back in and he has been an absolute rock. He deserves as much credit as the rest of them.”