Darvel star eyes Junior Cup history against Arthurlie to ram critics' words down their throats

Andy Leishman faced cheap shots that he was chasing money not trophies when he left Auchinleck Talbot for Darvel last summer. But after dumping his old club out of the Junior Cup in the semi final the big goalkeeper is 90 minutes away from putting a silver lining on yet another season - and ramming those jibes back where they came from.

Leishman is preparing for his ninth final appearance against Arthurlie on Sunday but his first without Talbot. He admits it had reached a stage where he took Junior Cup Finals for granted during 14 silverware-laden years with his former club. He got his giants paws on the holy grail of the junior game on six occasions. Yet as he targets his seventh winner’s medal tomorrow the 35-year-old admits it feels like he is back hunting down his very first. A summer move 13-miles across Ayrshire has reignited his love of the game. And now he stands on the brink of history as Darvel look to secure their first ever triumph in the competition in their 135-year history.

Leishman said: “This is completely different to what I felt with Auchinleck. To have been in so many finals with Talbot… it’s not good to say, but we were just getting used to it. It felt like you’d get there every year. But this time with Darvel it’s the first final they’ve been in since 1976 and they are looking to win it for the first time ever. So it’s a massive occasion for the club and the community. The place will no doubt empty on Sunday. It’s a really special feeling.

“Don’t get me wrong I loved every minute of my time at Talbot and will cherish those years for ever. Relations with the manager, Tucker, and others were fine. I needed a fresh start. To be honest I was actually contemplating retiring but Tony McInally phoned me and gave me the chance to come here and it’s rejuvenated me because I was falling out of love with the game a little bit.

“You get stuck in a rut when you’re at the same club for 12 years. Beating Talbot in the semi final was strange though. Especially the first leg at Beechwood. I’m used to that big crowd cheering for me. This time it was 90 minutes of pelters! They were shouting the usual ‘ya big money grabbing b******’ and all that.

“They said when I left I was just going to Darvel for the money and not to win silverware. Well we’ve already won the West of Scotland Cup and now we’re in the Junior Cup final. But it’s fine. Back in the clubhouse they were buying me a drink. When you’ve won as much as we did at the club down the years they’re not going to hate you.”

Meanwhile, Colin Reilly has urged his Arthurlie players to seize the moment and write themselves into Barrhead history. The Renfrewshire side are aiming to lift the Junior Cup for a third time against Darvel tomorrow.

And even though it’s been 26 years since they last brought the sillverware home, the town still celebrates the heroes of 1998 such as Mark McLaughlin, Johnny Millar, Steven Convery and Steven Nugent whose goals helped shoot down rivals Pollok 4-0 at Fir Park.

Reilly knows his side stand just 90 minutes away from legends in their own right. They secured their spot in tomorrow’s final thanks to a thrilling semi final victory over neighbours Johnstone Burgh watched by nearly 4000 fans over two legs. And Reilly said: “I told the players at training they are all wearing a badge with two stars on it - go and make it three.

“They have the opportunity to write history. To go down as legends in the town. There’s a real buzz about the place and the players are desperate to be winners. We are starting to really see it across the town now, the backing and the energy about the place. Flags, bunting, it’s all out there. This place would thrive off it. Arthurlie have a history with this competition and it really is considered the Holy Grail. Right now we only have one player who has a Junior Cup winner’s medal in the dressing room. Bryan Wharton who won it with Pollok. It would be quite something to have someone who won it with Pollok and Arthurlie.”

Success at Broadwood tomorrow would lift the pain of a season that saw Lie relegated from the top flight of the West of Scotland League. Despite a late rally, a poor start to the season cost Reilly’s side dearly. They’ve not kicked a competitive ball since May 11 when they finished the campaign in style with a 5-0 thrashing of champions Beith. And Reilly hopes the momentum hasn’t been lost over three weeks of inaction.

He said: “We finished the season relegated but flying, losing just one game in 10. Then there was a period of three weeks’ down time. Our spirits were high because we’d been on a good run and clinched the spot in the final by beating Johnstone Burgh. So we had to keep the morale up and there were a few bonding sessions, 10-pin bowling and stuff that was in between the training sessions. It means we’re in a good position going into the final.”