OK, I would not insult my reader's intelligence by suggesting Sunday's demonstration of Real Fitba, at the Scottish Junior Cup Final in any way matched the sheer technical level of the previous day's European Cup Final, in Kiev, but, when it came to raw passion and the big finish – CR7, Gareth Bale, Mo Sala and Co weren't at the races when compared to what the Mighty 'Bot conjured-up to snatch victory from the oesophagus, more than the jaws of defeat.
That winning feeling for the Talbot players yesterday
I freely admit, when Fourth Official Chris Graham held up the board, indicating three minutes of added time, I still could not see Talbot even getting an equaliser. They had lang syne ran out of fresh ideas as to how to score against their obdurate opponents.
However, back in the 1980s, at the same Rugby Park, I had seen another Talbot side come from behind to pip Shotts Bon Accord, in the 119th minute and 52nd second of a West of Scotland Cup clash which had gone to extra time. So I knew, if any side could find a way to win from such an impossible position, it was Talbot.
Even when Graham Wilson headed them level towards the end of the 91st minute, I still thought, if Talbot were going to win, they would need to come out ahead in the nerve-shredding penalty-kick lottery which would follow the final whistle.
Then, closer to the 93rd than the 92nd minute, incredibly the team which never gives up, got their reward, with super-sub Chris McCracken heading home an unbelievable winner – cue mayhem, in the ground and later on the streets of Auchinleck.
- A 12th Scottish Junior Cup win – extending their record number of victories
- A 6th Scottish Cup win for manager Tucker Sloan – taking him past “God”, as Willie Knox is known in Auchinleck and meaning, Sloan has now, himself, won the Cup more often than any other junior CLUB.
- A 25th trophy as Talbot boss for manager Sloan.
- The League and Cup Double dream is still on – with just the minor matter of getting past Cumnock – at Townhead Park, standing between Talbot and destiny.
- With, potentially another ten fixtures to play, Talbot could yet add: The League, the West of Scotland Cup, the Ayrshire Weekly Press Cup and the Evening Times Cup to the Ardagh and Scottish Cups they have already won this season.
But, this is a club which never tries of success, or trophy-gathering, winning is in their DNA.
And, let's not forget about Hurlford. Not that long ago it seemed possible this club would die. They went through an entire season without winning, then, they got new sponsorship, a new boss in local man Darren Henderson and the rest is history.
The 'Ford are now one of the clubs you immediately think of when assessing potential Junior Cup winners, Blair Park might still be a homely place, but, they are a seeriously-competitive club, worthy of their position in the West of Scotland Super League.
It cannot be easy running a junior club, when you have Kilmarnock just down the road, but, more power to the elbow of everyone at the club.
A special mention too to the Shankland brothers, Stephen and Mark. Stephen had his 15 minutes of fame when he helped Shortlees Amateurs win the Scottish Amateur Cup a couple of weeks ago, now brother Mark caught up, by providing the crosses for those two late Talbot goals. Well done guys, and, let's not forget the Wilson brothers, Graham and Stephen, who were in the winning Talbot side.
Junior Football gained a new convert on Sunday. The Herald's coverage was entrusted to former top badminton star Susan Eaglestaff, now forging as considerable a reputation as a wordsmith as she once had on the court.
Susan was overcome with the sheer raw emotion of it all at Rugby Park, welcome aboard Susan, I look forward to reading lots more of your copy.
MEANWHILE, for the Praetorian Guard of Scottish football-writing, it's all about Peru this week, and Scotland's end-of-season tour to there and Mexico. I think the guys who gave this wee jaunt a body-swerve will be the losers. You never know, somebody could come out of left field and, over the two games, make himself undropable by Big Eck.
Strange things happen on such tours. I remember the controversial South American tour of 1977, a reccy trip for the following year's World Cup Finals. This took the Scots, controversially to Chile, then under a military dictatorship under Maggie Thatcher's favourite soldier, General Pinochet.
General and Mrs Pinochet with a really hard Right-Wing Dictator. His troops had the SFA blazers running for cover in Santiago in 1977, much to the merriment of the Scottish players
Apparently, the Scots' team hotel was one of several large former mansions, on the grandest boulevard in the Chilean capital, Santiago. Three mansions down was the grandest bordello in Santiago, and, the SFA hierarchy had been granted honorary membership for the duration of their stay.
One night, the SFA “blazers” decided to pop along and visit the ladies, forgetting, or perhaps thinking such inconveniences did not refer to them, the 9pm curfew which Pinochet's regime had put in place.
Any way, at around 10.30pm, those players enjoying a relaxing pre-bed beer on the open verandah of the hotel, were amused to witness the somewhat noisy and “happy” SFA delegation weaving their way homeward down the otherwise empty boulevard, when an open Chilean Army land rover, sporting a heavy machine gun in the load bay, turned the corner, and the soldier on the gun unleashed a warning burst of strafing fire at the SFA party.
According to my contact among the players: “We didn't know the SFA blazers could move that quickly,” as they hared down the street and dived over the front wall into the hotel gardens, before, all dignity gone, they managed to make the safety of the hotel building.
“I played over 50 times for Scotland, that night was one of my highlights,” added my contact. Let's hope there are none of these sorts of little local difficulties on the current trip.