Hearts' Josh Ginnelly: I got bottled when playing for Tranmere at Wembley

Losing the 2020 Scottish Cup final the way they did was a metaphorical punch to the guts, according to Hearts winger Josh Ginnelly, but he has experienced worse – even when winning.

Ginnelly scored for Hearts in the Scottish Cup against Celtic.
Ginnelly scored for Hearts in the Scottish Cup against Celtic.

That day at Hampden, when Celtic squeezed the Gorgie club out on penalties, the mental anguish was real. But, while he was psychologically on top of the world, it was physical pain he endured as Tranmere Rovers vanquished Boreham Wood in the 2018 National League play-off final.

“I got bottled!” revealed Ginnelly. “It was an interesting game. We had a man sent off 54 seconds into the game. It was a weird day. Somebody threw something from the crowd and it hit me on the back of the head. It was crazy. I ended up coming off. I went dizzy. My head was pounding.

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“It hit me on a sweet spot on my head and I went down. I got back up and back on the pitch but everything was blurry. It was a full beer bottle. It was a rollercoaster of emotions but we got over the line.

Josh Ginnelly, left, and Andy Cook of Tranmere Rovers celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the Vanarama National League Play Off Final between Boreham Wood and Tranmere Rovers.

“I could have gone to the hospital but I didn’t want to miss out on a day like that. We had a good couple of days and I would rather take that than go to the hospital.

“But it just shows you that sometimes it can just be your day. There was just this weird feeling around the stadium that we were going to do it.

“I think we made three substitutions in 35 minutes. It was crazy, the odds were all against us but we scored a late goal and got over the line.”

That wasn’t his only success, having enjoyed lower league glory with Shrewsbury as a teenager and promotion with Lincoln, before those Tranmere celebrations the following year.

However, heading into Saturday's final against Rangers, the 25-year-old is desperate to sample some Scottish partying after the pandemic and the club’s demotion took a lot of the joy out of last season’s Championship win.

“We didn’t celebrate that,” said Ginnelly. “But, I’m sure if we win this cup Edinburgh will go crazy for a few days.

“I've been part of some trophy-winning games and they were all great days but this would be, without a doubt, the biggest achievement of my career. I really want to win.

“The thing that sticks with you most is the moment the final whistle goes and you see all the joy you have brought to fans and your family.”

Until last month’s semi-final win, Ginnelly’s trips to the national stadium had been unusual, with covid restrictions and empty stands diluting the buzz of playing and scoring on such a stage.

"I think the first time I saw Hampden full was in the semi-final. I thought to myself, 'ah I wish I'd had the fans in here when I scored last year in the final’.

“I think everybody in any game wants to score but when it's a final, when you're scoring a goal that affects a game massively. Hopefully I can do it again.”

This time in front of the fans, with a more glorious outcome. And. hopefully, the only beer bottles to feature will be the ones being emptied as the partying begins.