Adam Rooney out to make amends for League Cup final woe

Adam Rooney admits that even losing the Scottish Cup final to a Tom Rogic goal with virtually the last kick in the last minute of the last game of last season wasn't as disappointing as the manner in which Aberdeen lost the League Cup final to the same opponents.

Adam Rooney says the Aberdeen squad is the strongest he has known during his time at the club. Picture: SNS
Adam Rooney says the Aberdeen squad is the strongest he has known during his time at the club. Picture: SNS

Of course the Dons finished runners-up to Brendan Rodgers’ Invincibles in all three domestic competitions but it was the failure to do themselves justice at Hampden Park last November that most rankles with the Irish striker.

Rooney insists they left the national stadium in May knowing they had given their all, but that wasn’t the case when Celtic strolled to a 3-0 win when they met in the final of the other major knockout competition.

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What that memory provides is increased motivation to make amends for Rooney, who scored Aberdeen’s decisive penalty when they defeated Inverness Caley Thistle in a shootout to lift the trophy in 2014.

“Last year, we were disappointed with the League Cup final because we never really turned up to be honest” recalls Rooney ahead of tonight’s 
Betfred Cup quarter-final against Motherwell.

“We never got going, Celtic got an early goal and dominated for the rest of the game.

“It was a tough one for everyone to be involved in, the players and the fans. The aim after that was just to try and get to another final and try and give ourselves another chance.

“We did that in the Scottish Cup, but it’s never nice to lose a game with the last kick of the game. We performed a lot better that time but you can’t take anything away from Celtic the way they performed and how good they were.

“In the end they completed the treble and went the entire season unbeaten so it was very difficult. Another year, if they hadn’t got to the cup finals, we could be sitting here with two trophies.

“We’ve won the League Cup and obviously we want to add to that silverware. The squad we’ve built is capable of doing that. We want to get there and give ourselves a chance again.

“You want to look back and remember you played on the big stage and in big games.”

The only problem, as Rooney himself admits, is the squad Derek McInnes has assembled recently is so strong nowadays that even he is no longer guaranteed a starting place in the side.

A combination of injury and new signings by the Aberdeen manager have limited him to just two starts this season as the arrival of Greg Stewart, Gary Mackay-Steven, Stevie May and Nicky Maynard has increased McInnes’ attacking options

It’s a challenge which Rooney, who has scored 78 goals in 158 games since joining the Dons from Oldham Athletic in January 2014, is definitely up for. However, he insists he is not the only one fighting for a regular place as Aberdeen have more than made up for the loss of Ryan Jack, Niall McGinn, Ash Taylor and Jonny Hayes over the summer.

“We’ve obviously got more attacking options now” he added. “I don’t think we’ve ever had that strength in depth at the top end of the pitch.

“That’s the same for everyone though and everyone wants to make sure they get in the team and keep their place.

“When Jonny, Niall, Jacko and Ash were all leaving, some people were worried about how we would replace them. I think the club did a great job in getting a number of bodies in, and I think this is definitely the strongest squad since I’ve been here.

“That’s in terms of the numbers of players we have who can start every game and the amount of different teams we could put out.

“In the past it’s been 12 or 13 lads who you pick an 11 from, whereas now we’ve probably got 18 lads who could all start.”

Injury kept Rooney out of last month’s League Cup and Premiership double header against Hamilton but he expects to have a key role in the Dons’ back-to-back visits to Fir Park, with the teams meeting again in the league on Sunday.

Aberdeen won both those games and Rooney is hopeful of a similar outcome against Motherwell as the Dons are unbeaten away from home since February but he insists Sunday’s Premiership encounter is the last thing on his mind at the moment.

He said:“We won’t really look forward to the weekend until we get the cup game out of the way. We’ll only be focused on Thursday night’s game.

“You play teams so often up here that you know their strengths and weaknesses.

“Both teams have got some new players in and it’s the first time we’ve met this season. But all the lads will know what they’re about. If we play the way we can, we’re capable of beating anyone and I think we’ve shown that over the years.”