Scottish Junior Cup final: Glenafton seal double with win over Auchinleck

By Keir MurrayBBC Scotland at Rugby Park
Glenafton Athletic celebrate with the Scottish Junior Cup, their second major trophy of the season
Glenafton Athletic celebrate with the Scottish Junior Cup, their second major trophy of the season

Alan Cairns struck a sensational winner for Glenafton Athletic against Ayrshire rivals Auchinleck Talbot to add the Scottish Junior Cup to their Super Premier Division title.

Talbot took the lead when Keir Milliken arrowed home a low drive to give them hope of a 12th Junior Cup success.

But in 27 minutes Cameron Marlow's controlled volley restored parity.

And, with 15 minutes remaining, Cairns sent the fans bedecked in red and white into raptures with a 25-yard cracker.

The New Cumnock team last won the trophy in 1993 and had lost in the final on four other occasions, most recently to Hurlford United three years ago.

But they brought their league-winning form into the 131st Scottish Junior Cup final and made it four wins on the trot this season against the team that plays only nine miles away from their own Loch Park ground.

A question of identity

The Scottish Junior Cup is the most coveted trophy at that level of the game and it was fitting that Kilmarnock's Rugby Park was the venue for an all-Ayrshire final, the sixth in the competition's history.

Auchinleck Talbot fans
The Auchinleck Talbot supporters were hoping to see their team lift the Junior Cup for the 12th time

The fans' inflammatory song books and the celebrations that greeted Glens' triumph suggest that being the top team out of the 160 who entered is not all that matters - community and identity are important components too.

For 22-year-old Marlow, who has had two spells in America, "there is nothing better than this club".

The Glenafton midfielder told BBC Scotland: "I can't describe the feeling, when you score the goal and the fans are cheering. What it means to the New Cumnock community is unbelievable.

"I enjoy this club. I love everything about it. Everything has paid off."

Signalling towards the rump of dejected Talbot fans who remained to applaud their players, he joked: "Today was fantastic, especially scoring a goal and running that way, seeing all the faces hating me."

Imposing centre-half Ryan McChesney stood up well to the trickery of Auchinleck's Milliken, Graham Wilson and attacking midfielder Dwayne Hyslop, and was delighted to have a winner's medal after the dejection of losing the final in 2014.

"I'm a local boy, from the village," he said.

"I started with the boys' club and worked my way up. I'll go home and celebrate with my family. I'm just delighted."

Glenafton match-winner Alan Cairns
Glenafton match-winner Alan Cairns poses beside his mum and other members of his family after lifting the Scottish Junior Cup

Match-winner Cairns played for Kilmarnock Under-19s and St Mirren reserves before moving to junior football.

He was still coming to terms with scoring a goal - his first in possibly four years, he reckons - never mind one that won the cup.

"My dad said I used to score wonder goals all the time but I don't know where that one came from," said the 22-year-old, who works in the petrochemical industry.

"They tell me every day in training to shoot. I was going to play the ball wide but I thought 'why not?'.

"I'm surprised it went in. The goalie's about 7ft. I didn't know what to do; it was my first goal in I-don't-know-how-long."

'They play for pride...and expenses'

Club officials John Campbell and Eric Wilson took in the atmosphere of the post-match celebrations and paid credit to the squad of only 17 players who had clinched a league and cup double, training twice a week and juggling football with jobs that pay.

"We're going for a treble," said Campbell.

"We have the Super Cup to win next week. We play Girvan in the semi-final on Wednesday night. These players don't play for money; they play for pride... and expenses."

Some 4,300 Glenafton fans packed the main stand at Kilmarnock, a considerably greater number than populate New Cumnock.

"In '93 when we got to the cup final there were 8,500 in the village; now there are 2,900," said Wilson.

"Fans have come from as far afield as Canada."

David, George and Robert Dickson
(l to r) David, George and Robert Dickson travelled from various parts of England to return to Ayrshire for their team's cup final

Brothers George, David and Robert came home from Norfolk, Manchester and Warrington respectively to see Afton lift the cup.

George told BBC Scotland: "I've met people who have travelled from all over the UK, who haven't been in New Cumnock for years and who I haven't seen for 20 years. It's fantastic.

"In terms of the match, I think it could have been a better game.

"I didn't think it was right to play it on an artificial pitch. I think both teams really struggled on it. It's a beautiful surface but only if you play on it all the time."

As the stadium emptied and the coaches returned to New Cumnock, many fans looked determined to live up to the declaration on their red and white T-shirts: "We are the Afton Army. We party all the time."

But for Talbot manager Tommy Sloan, who has guided his team to five of their 11 Scottish Junior Cup wins since he took charge in 2003, Sunday night will be a far more sober occasion.

The Auchinleck players and fans will need to leave the celebrations for winning a famous old trophy 12 times to Real Madrid.

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