It seems more than a tad appropriate for the 120th year of the Evening Times Champions Cup to be kickstarted today by two of Junior football’s oldest clubs.
Glasgow Perthshire, founded in 1890 and whose one and only victory in the long-standing competition was chalked up exactly 40 years ago (the Frank McDougall and Paddy Smyth inspired 1976-77 team) host the visit of Darvel, who were formed in 1889.
Darvel are a first time entrant, not surprising since Ayrshire teams have only competed for the silverware since 2003.
And their recent crowning as Ayrshire District League champions denoted a first league title success in 50 years.
The Shire, managed by long-serving Billy Adams whose time at the Keppoch Park helm now dates back some 22 years, qualified as Central Second Division kingpins.
And it’s hard not to think their seasoned core of Davie Kirkwood, Craig Smith, Andy Gibson, J.P. Craig and of course Mark Thomson, who skippered Ashfield to Evening Times glory in 2012 and scored the winning goal in the final against Irvine Meadow, will have most people regarding them as firm favourites to come out on top.
Losing out to Maybole with a depleted line-up in the Shire’s last participation in the Evening Times Cup (2012) will have Adams determined to steer his troops to victory and a Keppoch Park semi-final meeting against Cambuslang Rangers or Larkhall Thistle.
But the visiting Ayrshiremen have already beaten higher league Central First Division outfits Thorniewood United and Vale of Clyde on the road this season and they will not be shaking in their boots at the prospect of making the journey up to Possilpark.
Darvel manager Scott “Paddy” Clelland is nothing if not a realist and he reckons his players can win the day by performing with the same work ethic and consistency they showed in putting together a 21-game unbeaten league run – their only lapse was an opening day 6-1 beating dished out by Whitletts Vics.
Last night he took time out from licking his wounds following Darvel’s 3-1 midweek defeat by Auchinleck Talbot to say: “ There was a decent atmosphere with a crowd approaching the 600 mark watching on and it’s no exaggeration to say we just froze on the night and allowed Talbot to run over the top of us in the early stages.
“At 2-0 down we pulled a goal back to give ourselves a glimmer of hope but they scored again to kill the game as a contest even though we came out and played a lot better in the second half.
“I’d like to think our players will have learned from the experience and be better prepared for taking on Glasgow Perthshire in what has the makings of a good cup tie.”
Tough-tackling Kenny Parris, who played for Maybole in the 2012 defeat of the Shire, looks a certain midfield starter alongside former Kilwinning Rangers signing Ian McReadie – at 35 the elder statesman of Darvel’s line up – while Hurlford United loan signing Stuart Davidson is tipped to play in a backline where powerful stopper Calum Walsh has earned the lynchpin plaudits.
Paddy’s selection hand also includes former Auchinleck duo Martin Findlay and Mark Armour (top scorer on 18 goals).
So there is a fair pedigree running through the Ayrshire side which helps explain their emergence this season.
The team boss agreed: “Yes, we are fortunate to have a bit of quality running through the squad but everyone in the squad also buys into the concept that you have to work hard in order to play with high intensity.
“We can match up with the best when everything comes together and hopefully the guys can show that tomorrow .”
Cambuslang Rangers head through to Brig O’Lea for their final league game of the season knowing a win against Neilston clinches a place in the Evening Times last four but any other result means current frontrunners Larkhall Thistle will go through.
Most focus though will be on the potentially crucial Super Premier Division head to heads involving the top four placed clubs.
Current leaders Glenafton are at Guys Meadow to face nearest challengers Rob Roy whose injury ravaged plight saw the Rabs face Cumnock in midweek with only 13 fit players and with gaffer Stewart Maxwell listed as a substitute.
He said: "Shaun Fraser and Luke Whelan are back in the frame which is a huge boost as this game has all the makings of a must-win occasion for us if we want to keep our title dreams alive.
“Glenafton will be every bit as desperate to win and put us out of the reckoning before we play each other again next week and a win along with a defeat for Auchinleck away to a Beith side wanting to finish their league season on a high could see the Glens crowned as champions.
“Talbot scored with a deflected last-minute winning goal last weekend and Glenafton with an injury-time penalty-kick in midweek so hopefully the time has come for Rob Roy to get a similar share of the breaks.
“Right now we are probably third favourites in most people’s minds but everything could change come four o’clock today.”
Meanwhile, another long-serving team manager, Hughie Hamill of Vale of Leven, is stepping down after 20 years at Millburn Park and handing over the reins to his assistant Brian Brown.
Evening Times Champions Cup preliminary round: Glasgow Perthshire v Darvel.
McBookie.com Super Premier Division: Rob Roy v Glenafton, Beith v Auchinleck Talbot.
McBookie.com Central First Division: St Roch's v Greenock, Thorniewood Utd v Johnstone Burgh, Neilston v Cambuslang Rangers.
McBookie.com Central Second Division: East Kilbride Thistle v Newmains Utd.
McBookie.com Ayrshire District League: Muirkirk v Craigmark.
Central League Cup third round: Forth Wanderers v Benburb.
McBookie.com Ayrshire District League.
Muirkirk v Craigmark..Central League Cup. Third Round.
Forth Wanderers v Benburb.