It is over. Aberdeen have done it. 19 years of heartache evaporated as Adam Rooney’s decisive spot-kick flashed behind Dean Brill to hand the Dons the League Cup. The 120 minutes of football that went before belied the ultimate simplicity but as soon as the former Inverness hit man’s penalty crashed into the net the draining afternoon endured by the 40,000 strong Red Army was forgotten on a joyous afternoon in Glasgow’s east end.
Inverness travelled down the A9 celebrating two decades in existence while Derek McInnes was looking to write himself into history and end the Dons’ trophy drought which had lasted almost as long. In the weeks leading up to the first domestic final of the season the extraordinary number of supporters desperate to witness their beloved Reds enjoying success was evident as Pittodrie’s ticket office burst at the seams.
McInnes made every effort to subdue the soaring expectations in the Granite City but succeeded with maximum league points gathered against St Johnstone and progression into the Scottish Cup semi-final achieved against Dumbarton in the weeks prior to the club’s date with destiny. In truth though, there was no stoppings the fans’ focus on the Celtic Park showpiece. Such was the magnitude of the occasion that success against the Sons was somewhat overshadowed amidst a feeling of formality. Never before was a Scottish Cup quarter-final victory met with such mundane emotion given the strides being made under McInnes but it also allowed the success-starved masses to finally begin the countdown.
Finally it was here.
Some made globe-trotting trips from Australia, Dubai and Iraq. Some from Alford, Dyce and Inverurie but they all wanted one thing – an Aberdeen win. Glasgow was turned red on Sunday morning as they filed into the city. The A90’s steady flow of traffic was no more with thousands arriving to disrupt a sleepy Glasgow weekend. Pubs overflowed as fans jostled in a bid to settle their nerves in what was sure to be a nail-biting afternoon. Rare flashes of Inverness blue served as unwanted reminders that they were here to spoil the party. Memories of failed attempts came flooding back but they were soon drowned by pint-sized cures as the clocked ticked down to kick-off.
It was a remarkable sight, Parkhead floated on a sea of red and white, just about being kept afloat by the blue which occupied a section of the Lisbon Lions stand. As news spread of Peter Pawlett’s absence from the side due to a leg injury the Dons support were briefly deflated but nothing was standing in their way. The players were greeted by a quite stunning fan display as the Highlanders looked on in bewilderment. “1903, The Dons” it read. The very thought of Aberdeen and their fans leaving Glasgow without the cup was sickening.
In Jonny Hayes’ eagerness to try to influence matters on the field, an over exuberant leap for the ball inside the first 10 seconds resulted in him having to be replaced by Cammy Smith after he landed awkwardly on his shoulder. All of a sudden, minus the influence of Hayes and Pawlett Aberdeen lacked a cutting edge as Inverness looked to carry out a sustaining job on their north-east rivals. For long spells it looked as if that unthinkable prospect of Inverness claiming the trophy looked an all too real possibility.
Nothing separated them after extra time so penalties would decide the destination of the 2014 Scottish League Cup. Something to strike fear into Aberdeen teams of the not too distant past but this is no “ordinary” Aberdeen side. They are managed by Derek McInnes, a man that demands professionalism, practice and poise. He insisted that penalty kicks are no lottery. Barry Robson, Nicky Low, Scott Vernon and Adam Rooney all stepped up and proved his point.
Aberdeen Football Club were winners again.
Billy McKay had his effort saved and Greg Tansey blasted over the bar to pave the way and the Dons grabbed it. Bedlam. 40,000 Dandies were in dreamland. Chairman Stewart Milne’s relief was clear as his turbulent tenure was (for now at least) over. “19 years, 120 minutes and then f****** penalties” he screamed live on radio. It is clear that a burden has lifted from his shoulders and after securing Derek McInnes on extended terms he may have to get used to this winning feeling – along with everyone else at Pittodrie.
With the dust settling and heart rates returning to normal the scramble is on to find the key to the Pittodrie trophy cabinet.
Welcome back Aberdeen – we’ve missed you.