Scottish Cup: Harestanes savour their "bonus" despite loss to Girvan

Around 300 fans watched Harestanes' first Scottish Cup foray at Duncansfield in Kilsyth
Harestanes faced Girvan in the Scottish Cup

"Harestanes need to swap their socks and Girvan have left their training cones on the bus."

Within 60 seconds of walking through Duncansfield's creaking main gate, the first piece of eavesdropped chatter delivered a chastening reminder of part-time football.

Apart from five hastily arranged pieces of garden furniture, seating arrangements at this ground in Kilsyth, North Lanarkshire, were unashamedly all-standing.

A rickety, yet pure place playing host to Harestanes v Girvan by default.

The Kirkintilloch amateur side - the first ever to enter the Scottish Cup by way of being Scottish Amateur Cup champions - had hoped to play out their piece of history on their own Merkland patch.

But the Scottish Football Association did not deem that "field of dreams" (as Harestanes chairman Jim McKinney likes to call it) suitable to hold this first preliminary round tie.

Brothers Paul McKinney (left) and Jim McKinney helped found Harestanes in 1981
Brothers Paul McKinney (left) and Jim McKinney helped found Harestanes in 1981

So Duncansfield it was and, while a squad of Harestanes players frantically retreated to the spartan dressing-rooms to de-sock and the Girvan secretary searched for the bus driver who had gone walkabout, another piece of amateur football gold emerged.

Having to be dusted down to play in goal for this momentous fixture was Harestanes' third-choice keeper, no less.

"Let's just say I'm approaching 40," said 38-year-old Scott McNab, who looked quite the opposite of a relic as he went through a series of pre-match shot-stopping drills.

"I only really help the team out now and again when they're struggling for a goalie."

Surely 'The Hares' first and second choice men between the sticks could have picked better days be absent?

But McNab - Harestanes born and bred - explained how Conor O'Boyle had left to join League Two club Queen's Park. His replacement, who McNab only knows as "Jamie, I think", was away because he was an usher at his brother's wedding.

"I'll either be in the headlines for making wonder saves or for being an absolute old codger," he grinned, before giving more solid foundations to his credentials.

"I played in this team when we won the Scottish Amateur Cup two years in a row a long time ago, so they're a team close to my heart. I'll settle for a win today and then I can bow out undefeated in the senior Scottish Cup!"

Approximately 300 fans watched Harestanes v Girvan
Approximately 300 fans watched Harestanes v Girvan in the Scottish Cup first preliminary round tie

Among the 300 or so crowd gathered to watch how McNab would fare were two fans with backgrounds that were poles apart.

Standing on the Duncansfield perimeter's second-top step was Tam Cobain, a Harestanes follower of 30-plus years and whose son was a successful player there.

Yet, three steps closer to the pitch-side, 10 yards diagonally in front, was Douglas Gillies who had travelled 204 miles from Shipley in West Yorkshire simply to witness this game.

"I used to follow Leeds United in the glory days, but I got fed up with the sheer pricing people out of football," said the friendly gentleman from the White Rose part of the UK.

"People are so friendly here and we always enjoy coming up. Ideally, I'd like a 5-5 draw here so I can go to the replay at Girvan next week."

By half-time, Douglas had seen one of those 10 goals he anticipated. A stellar goalkeeping performance from the aforementioned McNab could not prevent Ayrshire District League outfit Girvan leading 1-0 at the break.

The slightly harsh analysis from Harestanes secretary Paul McKinney (brother of chairman Jim) was that his team "needed a rocket up their backsides."

He managed to sprinkle his own dry-wit on proceedings.

The dressing-rooms at Duncansfield
Duncansfield is the home of West of Scotland Super League junior club Kilsyth Rangers

The co-founder of Harestanes initially took great satisfaction in the fact that one lad who had gone away to retrieve a ball kicked out the ground "still wasn't back after 25 minutes".

A female Girvan fan with red slip-on shoes was his next target. McKinney peppered her with "Dorothy" [from The Wizard of Oz] jibes any time she cheered on the Seasiders. His jokes were received in the light-hearted manner they were delivered.

And, in hindsight, the slightly large supporter wearing a t-shirt with the slogan: "Fat people are harder to kidnap", probably got off rather lightly.

For McKinney, all that good-natured humour softened the eventual result of Harestanes 0-3 Girvan on Saturday.

Another Paul, The Hares' manager Paul Marshall, offered his thoughts.

"I don't think 3-0 was a fair reflection of the game as we played some really nice stuff," he said. "We were in this to win, but this competition was a bonus for us."

Yes, a memorable bonus for the Kirkintilloch men who will now try to retain the Scottish Amateur Cup so that another stab at the big-time comes around in the 2016-17 season.

As for those rascal Girvan training cones, they weren't even on the bus. They were hidden under a bench in the dressing room.

Half-time at Duncansfield
The two sets of supporters mingle during half-time at Duncansfield

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