Livingston rugby club will be playing to honour the memory of a club stalwart when they tackle unbeaten Marr in the final of the Scottish Shield at Murrayfield tomorrow (2pm).
Ex-captain and president Donald Naysmith died last year and, as current skipper Andy McMahon confirmed, it was at his funeral that some players who had moved on to other clubs decided to return to the Almond Park fold and spark a revival.
“Donald was such an influential figure at our club and continues to be so given that we have had his name embroidered on to our jerseys this season.
“A few of us got talking at Donald’s funeral and, as a consequence, myself, John Bruton, Aaron Johnstone, Ross Neil and Neil Scobie came back from Currie while Craig Bolan re-joined from Stirling County.
“Also, Lee Barratt, Kevin Buchan, Geoff Caldwell and Ally Laird were persuaded out of retirement and the club quickly had some experience to mix in with the excellent work being done at youth level,” said centre McMahon, who won a league title as well as being included in the Scottish club international squad while at Currie.
He is quick to acknowledge a certain irony in trying to keep hold of emerging talent rather than see them go off elsewhere in search of a higher standard but that quest has been helped by a promotion from East Division One to the Championship in emphatic style. Throughout the season Livi have tasted defeat only once, at Duns.
However, even such an impressive statistic is slightly overshadowed by the fact Marr emerged from their West league with a 100 per cent record.
“It really will be a battle between two form teams,” added McMahon, who is one of half a dozen Livi players beaten by Murrayfield Wanderers in the 2005 Shield final just before he departed for Currie.
“The experience of having played previously at Murrayfield should help a few of us and, given the buzz around the club, I’d put the current achievement on a par with winning the Premiership and being in the Scottish clubs squad.
“It was also a huge honour to be invited to captain Livingston so soon after returning from Currie.
“It really is great to be succeeding at the club where I started out and, while I was away, I kept in touch with Scott Paris, the forwards coach who previously turned out with Boroughmuir and Watsonians at prop as well as backs coach, Graham Ferrier.”
In fact, Paris is a former Scotland Under-21 internationalist who just missed out on a professional contract as did Livi’s other strike weapon, Geoff Caldwell.
Once of Ayr, Melrose and Currie, winger Caldwell continues to run in tries at the age of 36 just as he did when assisting Edinburgh District in the amateur era.
Caldwell is credited with helping bring through current wing prospect Jamie King who will spend the summer travelling along with second row forward Jamie Millar, but McMahon hopes both will be back for the new campaign.
And, with only vice captain Jason Watt moving on – he joins the Royal Navy after tomorrow’s final – McMahon is confident that tomorrow’s final is just the start of an exciting journey, especially with Livingston’s Under-18 team this week winning the Edinburgh U-18 Plate with an away victory over Edinburgh Accies-sponsored BATS to prove a talent conveyor belt is in place.