Three-di­vi­sion gap won’t ruin Rob’s fi­nal fan­tasy

Evening Times - - SPORT - BY JIM O’DONNELL

ROBERT Irv­ing has been no stranger to happy end­ings dur­ing his play­ing ca­reer… 24 win­ners medals from stints with Les­ma­hagow and Cum­nock tes­tify to that.

But from a man­age­rial per­spec­tive, his steer­ing the Gow to a cou­ple of pro­mo­tions and a West of Scot­land Cup semi-fi­nal ap­pear­ance has to be bor­der­ing on the medi­ocre at best.

But to­mor­row af­ter­noon (kick-off 1.30pm) the 49-year-old whose slight frame be­lies a fiercely com­pet­i­tive streak is rel­ish­ing the op­por­tu­nity to change the record when he leads his Les­ma­hagow side through to New­lands­field to face Auchin­leck Tal­bot in this sea­son’s Sec­tional League Cup fi­nal.

Most neu­trals would re­gard the clash as a mis­match given Tommy Sloan’s men are three di­vi­sions higher up how­ever a de­fi­ant Irv­ing reck­ons his play­ing charges can get hold of the sil­ver­ware to spoil any planned party down in Ayr­shire.

Last night he took time out from draw­ing up his bat­tle plans to say: “We trained on a 3G fa­cil­ity in Les­ma­hagow and af­ter­wards sat the play­ers down for a belther on what to ex­pect from Auchin­leck.

“I can only ad­mire what Tucker and his play­ers have achieved in the Ju­nior game (not easy for me to say as an ex-Cum­nock player) but they have strengths and weak­nesses just like us and any other team so the trick is to curb one and ex­ploit the other.

“Two of Auchin­leck’s most con­sis­tent and in­flu­en­tial play­ers are broth­ers Gra­ham and Ste­vie Wil­son which is more than a tad ironic given their fa­ther Gra­ham was a team-mate of mine at Cum­nock and I’ll re­mind him if he’s around in the crowd on Sun­day that back in those days I could never have imag­ined him cheer­ing on Tal­bot in a cup fi­nal.”

Irv­ing was giv­ing lit­tle away on his team se­lec­tion thoughts how­ever it’s be­lieved Les­ma­hagow will be along sim­i­lar lines to the team that over­came Peter­shill 4-1 in their semi-fi­nal which would mean no start­ing jersey for ex­pe­ri­enced cen­tre-back Dar­ren Ly­gate who missed that game be­cause of prior hol­i­day ar­range­ments.

Gow gaffer Irv­ing said: “It’s un­for­tu­nate for Dar­ren but his ab­sence opened the door for our sum­mer sign­ing Ryan Innes from Larkhall This­tle to form a de­fen­sive part­ner­ship along­side Gary Ni­chol­son and they’ve hardly put a foot wrong ever since.

“Gary is only 19 years of age and was play­ing with am­a­teur out­fit Car­luke Hearts un­til a few months ago but he has taken the step up to like a duck to wa­ter.”

‘‘ Tal­bot have strengths and weak­nesses in their team just like us

Les­ma­hagow man­ager Robert Irv­ing

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