His club may have pulled off one of the biggest shocks in Scottish Cup history on Monday night, but Darvel owner John Gall has his sight on an even bigger prize on Tuesday.
Gall spent much of Monday night replying to 300 congratulatory text messages but has no more time to dwell on a 1-0 victory over Aberdeen in the fourth round of the competition.
The morning after he was off to defend his title as the world champion at the Scotch pie awards. In truth he sounded as energised by this as Darvel’s forthcoming fifth round fixture against Falkirk.
“It’s the big pie awards today,” he told the BBC. “Hopefully I can hang on to my title as world champion Scotch piemaker, which I won last year.
“The pies were judged in the last month and today we get the results of who’s made the best one. My star pie is a famous Kilmarnock pie, it’s a steak and gravy pie.”
The excitement continues for Gall after watching his side turn over Scottish Premiership stalwarts Abderdeen, the team of Sir Alex Ferguson, Gordon Strachan and Eoin Jess. Last weekend’s Cup fixtures progressed much as expected, congratulations to all predicting wins for both Celtic AND Rangers, until Monday night and one of the biggest Cup shocks since the invention of open-topped vessels used to hold liquids for drinking.
Darvel is a town previously best known as the birthplace of penicillin inventor Sir Alexander Fleming, or a good place to stop if you wish to break up the punishing 36-minute drive between Strathaven and Kilmarnock.
A crowd of 3,500 came to Recreation Park stadium, bolstered by some temporary stands to accommodate a larger crowd than usual. Two years ago Darvel’s entire population was estimated at 3,900. They witnessed a night of purest pleasure when Jordan Kirkpatrick scored the only goal of the game and his team hung on for a win which some bookmakers had initially priced as 45/1 shot.
All of the ingredients were present and correct. Jobs to wake up for the morning after, heroic defending, big saves and Aberdeen visibly panicking, performing a tribute act to the England team of 2016 and their disintegration against Iceland in Nice. The victors were also helped by one offside decision which denied Aberdeen a goal was dubious, to put it politely. Thankfully there is no Var in the Darvel cinematic universe.
Just the five tiers and 56 places separating the two teams, which must put the result on at least a par with any of the great upsets of the past. Chill your boots Wrexham 2 Arsenal 1 1992, East Ayrshire wants a word. Afterwards the players celebrated in the ancient traditions of the region, with an energetic singalong to Cher’s 1998 smash hit Believe in the dressing room.
A team, a town can wait a lifetime for a night this special. Darvel were formed 134 years ago so have certainly earned the right for their time in the spotlight. So far they are relishing it, especially owner Gall ““It’s unbelievable, it all came together on the night. “Darvel is now on the map of world football,” he said, before immediately downgrading to “Scottish football.”
Some mild shine taken off by the fact that Darvel appear to be comfortably the best-financed outfit of the West of Scotland Football League. Gall’s pie empire with Browning’s Bakers has attracted a competitive group of players. A healthy 14 of the current squad have had notable enough careers to merit their own Wikipedia page.
Incredible result for @darvelfc in the Scottish Cup tonight! Logan somehow managed to follow the players into the dressing room - celebrations are well and truly underway! 🤩#DarvelFC #darvel #believe pic.twitter.com/m3maDEkS9z
— Chris Smith (@aap03102) January 23, 2023
The rest of their league competitors (your Auchinleck Talbots, your Kirkintilloch Rob Roys) average fewer than three. Indeed, on two occasions last year no less an authority than the Cowdenbeath fans’ forum have described the team as “Moneybags Darvel”.
But good luck diluting any of the joy which abounds after a proper cup shock. The final word must go to manager Mick Kennedy, all business after the final whistle. "Arthurlie on Saturday,” he said. “We need the three points."