The William Hill Scottish Cup is hurtling towards its latter stages and it brings back fond memories for Simon Donnelly.
From dealing with high expectations to dreaming of playing in the Scottish Cup as a child, the former Celtic, Partick Thistle, St Johnstone and Dunfermline Athletic forward reflects on his memories of the tournament across a near 20-year playing career.
‘No feeling like it’
Donnelly’s career began at Queen’s Park but truly took off when he made his switch to Celtic in 1993.
Just two years later, at the age of 20, Donnelly and his Celtic team-mates began their run to the Scottish Cup final.
A 2-0 victory over St Mirren in the Third Round was followed up by a 3-0 win against Meadowbank Thistle. Next up was a meeting with Kilmarnock in the quarter-final where the Parkhead side emerged 1-0 winners.
A goalless draw with Hibernian at Ibrox in the semi-final sent the tie to a replay, which was decided four days later when Celtic won 3-1 thanks to goals from Willie Falconer, John Collins and Phil O’Donnell.
It set the stage for a final between Celtic and Airdrieonians and Donnelly admits there was an element of pressure on him and his teammates.
“I had very differing experiences as a player in the Scottish Cup,” Donnelly said. “At Celtic there was an expectation to go deep in to the competition, if not win it, so there was certainly pressure before the final in 1995 against Airdrieonians.
“We won that game 1-0 and there was no feeling like it to get your hands on the trophy. It was a childhood dream come true.”
After leaving Celtic in 1999 for Sheffield Wednesday, Donnelly’s next taste of Scottish Cup football came in 2003 when he signed for St Johnstone. Spells with Dunfermline Athletic and Partick Thistle followed.
“In my time with Partick Thistle, St Johnstone and Dunfermline I remember some decent performances in the cup, particularly at Partick. We took Rangers to a replay at Firhill after drawing with them at Ibrox. We actually went ahead in that first game and I remember thinking ‘can we hold on?’ But they equalised towards the end and then beat us in the replay, so that’s the other side of the coin when it comes to the cup. Tasting defeat is hard to take.”
He added: “Then in my time as a coach at Dundee United we made it to the final in 2014 and unfortunately found ourselves on the losing end that day at Hampden against St Johnstone. That was certainly one of the tougher experiences I’ve had in the competition.
“You grow up as a kid in Scotland dreaming about being involved in the Scottish Cup so to win it was a dream come true, but the highs and lows of the cup are what make it unique.”