Derek McInnes says Aberdeen’s cup quest has gone on too long

Three musketeers: Theo Snelders, Alex McLeish and penalty hero Brian Irvine celebrate Hampden win in 1990.
Picture: SNS Group
Three musketeers: Theo Snelders, Alex McLeish and penalty hero Brian Irvine celebrate Hampden win in 1990. Picture: SNS Group
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Derek McInnes can be justifiably proud of the job he has done in restoring Aberdeen’s reputation as one of Scottish football’s major clubs but is acutely aware that it is the collection of silverware on which his legacy ultimately depends.

That’s why, for all the good work done so far, the Dons manager will only really start to believe he has achieved something special at Pittodrie if they end a 27-year wait by lifting the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park next month.

Of course that pales into insignificance alongside the 114-year hiatus that semi-final opponents Hibernian ended last season, but still too long for someone who was a teenager in the Morton midfield when they last took the trophy back to Aberdeen.

Brian Irvine was the unlikely hero that May day in 1990, scoring the decisive penalty in an extraordinary 9-8 shootout win against Celtic and a repeat to deny Brendan Rodgers’ seemingly infallible side a treble would certainly carry extra kudos.

Not that McInnes, right, will care who they meet next month as long as Aberdeen make it, which is hardly a given as you have to go back 17 years for their last appearance in the season’s showpiece finale.

In fact the Scottish Cup has arguably been the most frustrating experience in his four years in charge, losing a semi-final to former club St Johnstone followed by defeats at the first hurdle away to Dundee and Hearts.

Those setbacks hardly compare with losses to the likes of Raith Rovers and Queen of the South under previous regimes though, while Aberdeen’s form in the other competitions has more than re-established their credibility.

Despite Rangers’ return to the Premiership, they are closing in on a third successive second place finish in the league for the first time since 1991, are back playing regular European football and collected the first silverware in nearly two decades by winning the 2014 League Cup final against Inverness Caley Thistle.

It’s good but not yet enough for their manager who is acutely aware that the Highlanders went on to win the more prestigious Scottish Cup while teams such as Kilmarnock, St Mirren and Ross County have also won trophies in recent seasons.

That simply fuels his desire to become the first Aberdeen manager since Alex Smith to be successful in the country’s premier knockout competition in an effort to truly reflect the work that has been done and create some significant history.

“It’s been too long for this club not to have won the Scottish Cup,” claimed McInnes. “We can only take responsibility for our time here but it is up to us to bring more silverware to Pittodrie now.

“The final is the last game of the season and it always has that showpiece feel to it so we want to be there at Hampden with the chance of winning the trophy.

“We are one of four teams that can go and do that now so we have to be confident in our work that we can win it. That’s what we all want as, with the greatest respect, any team can win one cup.

“You can be quite fortunate with the draw and all of a sudden find yourself in a final. You have seen other clubs over the years win cups that their league form wouldn’t suggest they were capable of.

“What we have done is finish second and been very consistent in our league form so we are actually taking that into the knockout competitions.

“We have been in a few semi-finals now but we have only got to the two finals [both in the League Cup] so if we can get the third final in four years that shows the consistency of the players here.”

Aberdeen will start as favourites against the holders at Hampden Park on Saturday but that hasn’t counted for much in the most recent meetings between the pair in the knockout competitions.

Leigh Griffiths scored a late winner when the teams met at the same stage of the Scottish Cup back in 2012 while Alan Stubbs’ Hibernian side ended Aberdeen’s perfect seven-game winning start to last season by defeating them in a League Cup tie at Easter Road.

Of course Hibernian went on to end that long, long wait to lift the Scottish Cup by beating Rangers last May and McInnes believes the team Neil Lennon has put together since will be even tougher to beat.

“Life’s all about taking opportunities and we have a great one to get to a final but Hibs will see it exactly the same way,” he added. “We may be favourites based on where we are in the league but I think we are up against a team with a manager who is used to winning things.

“They are an experienced side that will win their own division and they are the cup holders. You could argue that this Hibs team are better than the one that beat Rangers in the final last season.

“They are a Premiership team in waiting so it is going to be tough but it is an opportunity for us and it’s important we take it. We stressed at the start of the season that we wanted to not just get to more cup finals and actually win them.”

Winning next Saturday would also offer the Aberdeen players the chance of redemption following their insipid performance when losing 3-0 to Celtic in this season’s League Cup final and McInnes is demanding more intensity against Hibernian.

“You don’t normally get good semi-finals because there is always so much on and sometimes you get teams more frightened not to lose it than going to win it,” he said.

“We have been in a few semi-finals now and obviously two finals and have suffered both winning and losing in the semis.

“You must do all you can and not have any regrets at the end. You have to be brave, confident and go and grab it to drive yourself into a final.”