Cup semi was huge incentive for Hearts striker Jamie Mole's loan move

THIS weekend, Jamie Mole might have found himself in Dingwall striving to help Morton resist the threat of relegation from the First Division against Ross County. Instead, he will be at Hampden Park with Raith Rovers playing in a Scottish Cup semi-final for the second successive year. A wise choice, you might assume.

The young Englishman, out of favour at Hearts, rejected the chance to accompany David Witteveen to Inverclyde on loan last month. Yet, when John McGlynn moved to lure him to Stark's Park just two days later, Mole had no hesitation. The chance of playing in a national cup semi-final can have that effect.

Last April, the striker was beaten 2-0 by Falkirk at the penultimate stage of the Scottish Cup whilst on loan at Dunfermline. Understandably, he jumped at the chance for personal atonement under a manager he knows inside out from their time at Riccarton.

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"I had the chance to go to Morton with David Witteveen. I didn't really fancy that so I turned it down," he explained to the Evening News. "A couple of days later, our academy director John Murray rang me saying Raith came in and the semi was a big part of the reason I went.

"I wanted to stay and fight for my place at Hearts but John Murray said he'd spoken to the manager. The manager said I could just go out on loan because I wasn't in the pecking order at Hearts. It's best to go out on loan to get some games and Raith was a better option than Morton.

"I know a couple of the lads here, like Stephen Simmons, Graham Weir and Robert Sloan from when they were at Hearts. I remember Allan Walker from when I was on loan at Livingston. Taking everything into consideration, it was easy to say 'aye'." Mole has grasped his opportunity, scoring on his debut in the 4-3 loss to league leaders Inverness on Saturday and playing the full 90 minutes of the 2-0 home victory over Ayr on Wednesday.

A native Geordie, Mole is no stranger to saying "why aye" to a loan agreement. The deployment to Kirkcaldy is his fourth temporary move in three years, highlighting his struggle to establish a permanent place in the Hearts forward line. He has managed only seven appearances this season and must now attempt to prove himself all over again when he returns to Riccarton in June.

That assignment would become significantly easier were he to fire First Division Raith past Dundee United and into the Scottish Cup final. He admits it would be strange reappearing at Hearts having played in two semi-finals and a final while away from his parent club.

"It's just luck that it's worked out that way but that was a big part of the consideration when I came here because I knew Raith were in the semi-finals of the Cup. I enjoyed it last year with Dunfermline. The nerves are there because it's such a big game but you just have to blank everything out and concentrate on your job. You make sure everyone is up for it in the dressing-room and hope you can have a good day.

"Dundee United beat Rangers to get here but then Rangers lost 4-1 to St Johnstone last week in the league. It's how you play on the day. Everyone is going to be up for it because they have all done well do get this far."

In line with the entire town of Kirkcaldy, Mole's hope is that McGlynn's top-level experience with Hearts can accord Raith a slight advantage over United. The 48-year-old revelled in cup finals and prestigious European occasions whilst assistant coach at Tynecastle, a post he vacated late in 2007 to become a manager in his own right.

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Much of Mole's development thus far is attributable to McGlynn's work behind the thick concrete walls of Riccarton. "When John was at Hearts I'd just left school and came in at the age of 16," said the striker. "He was under-19s coach and I played under him for the 19s and reserves for two years or so. I know the way he plays and I know what he wants. Everyone at Hearts liked him and wanted to play for him. The training and the man- management skills are all there. He's a good character. He's been learning in management just as we learn as players. Part and parcel of being a manager is to keep everyone's feet on the ground and get them ready for the game, try to get the best out of them."

McGlynn has already bemoaned the First Division fixture backlog which would seriously hinder Raith's chances of Scottish Cup success were they to reach the final. Mole is less scathing, however. For purely selfish reasons he is grateful for the chance of quick-fire games, having spent much of the season inactive at Hearts.

"For the last two weeks of the season, we are down to play Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, then Monday, Wednesday, Saturday again. It's beneficial for me," he said. "I haven't really played for two seasons with injuries and a new manager at Hearts. Hopefully this can help. I was always going to be a bit rusty but, then again, I'll have loads of energy and be buzzing about."