IF ANYONE is able to ensure belief flushes through a young Falkirk team as they take the field at Hampden Park on Saturday, it is Michael McGovern.
The Falkirk goalkeeper was between the posts for Ross County when they staged one of Scottish football’s greatest on-field shocks in recent times by defeating Celtic 2-0 in a Scottish Cup semi-final three years ago.
Now McGovern is hoping for a repeat success when Falkirk, who, like Ross County then, are in the First Division, face Hibernian on Saturday. It might not count as quite such a major surprise given Hibs’ form in the Scottish Premier League of late, but, as McGovern points out, his side are still considered to be very much the underdogs.
He points out that Ross County’s defeat of Hibs in the quarter-final in 2010 was every bit as impressive, even if the attention always falls on their win over Celtic in the last four. “We have nothing to fear,” he said. “We actually played Hibs in the quarter-final as well and we beat them after a replay. Everyone talks about the Celtic game and how we shocked Scottish football at the time. But the Hibs game as well was very enjoyable. It was a great run.”
Ross County could not provide the fairytale ending, losing 3-0 to Dundee United in the final. “We didn’t really do ourselves justice,” he said. “But it was a good day out. It’s a similar scenario with Falkirk. We’re the First Division team and I don’t think anyone will give us a chance of winning the game against Hibs. We’ve got confidence in ourselves and if we didn’t think we could win the game we wouldn’t turn up.
“There is not as much pressure on us as there would be on Hibs. We’ve got nothing to lose. No-one will bat an eyelid if we lose. Whereas, if we beat Hibs it would be big news.
“From that point of view, we can go out there and express ourselves knowing there is no real pressure on us at all. That’s something we need to embrace and think about so when we go out there we can give it our best shot.”
McGovern remembers not being able to start to relax until Martin Scott scored Ross County’s second goal against Celtic, with just two minutes remaining. Not that the ’keeper knew how much time was left. “It was strange because we scored late on, but the big screens at Hampden with the time on it had broken halfway through the second half,” he said. “Even when the fourth official put the injury time up I knew it wasn’t over – how many times do you see Celtic scoring late? I looked up at the start of the second half and it was 55 minute or something and then I looked up and it was blank. I was shouting to the bench to get a time when we scored the second goal, but they didn’t see me.”
Saturday’s clash with Hibs will count as McGovern’s fourth trip to Hampden in just four seasons. He also sat on the bench for two Scottish Cup finals when with Celtic, as understudy to David Marshall in 2004 and then Artur Boruc in 2007, both times against Dunfermline.
“I didn’t really play so it does not count as much, but I have two winners’ medals,” he said. “They do mean something to me. I’m proud of the fact I was at a big club like Celtic and I worked my way through to get very close to the first team.
“On the other side, I didn’t play in the games, so I’m not as proud of them. If I could get a medal myself, the difference would be night and day. I’ve got the medals in the house – they’re nice to have, but if you play it means so much more.”