RBS Cup: Maclay hopes to rekindle glory with Hawks
Having won two Scottish Cups with Glasgow Hawks in 2004 and 2007 during his first spell at the club, Ally Maclay is hoping to help the current crop of players reach a final of their own this afternoon.
Hawks head for Netherdale to take on the Maroons of Gala, champions two years ago, in an intriguing RBS Cup last-four clash.
The home side will start as favourites and will be desperate to get out on the pitch having seen the RBS Premiership title slip dramatically from their grasp just seven days ago on the same ground.
However, Hawks have impressed many this term on their return to the top flight and have a shrewd coaching set-up, headed up by Jamie Dempsey, which manages to get the best out of the young players coming through.
As a young player himself some ten years ago Maclay played at outside centre as Hawks claimed the cup courtesy of a 29-17 victory over Dundee HSFP.
They also won the league that season and in 2004/05 and 2005/06 before clinching their second cup victory in 2007, this time defeating Edinburgh Accies 24-13 with Maclay in the back-row.
In 2008 Maclay headed for Hong Kong where he ended up playing for five years and earned full caps for Hong Kong at 15s and sevens levels.
When he returned to Scotland last summer there was only going to be one club he wanted to join and, now 30, he has enjoyed being part of the new-look Hawks’ set-up. He said: “When I was younger and playing at the club everything just seemed to be going right for us.
“We were winning leagues and cups and it really was such a great time for us all.
“I guess when you are living it you maybe don’t take it all in as much, but having returned to the club I know that big days like this one down at Gala don’t come around too often and we have to make the most of the opportunity.
“When I came back last summer I knew it was going to be quite strange because most of the players who I had played with up until 2008 had left and the club was rebuilding itself after promotion.
“As soon as I got to pre-season training, though, I was reinvigorated and to see such great young talent coming through and a great young coach like Jamie leading things from the front has been very pleasing.
“At times this season we have shown the exciting brand of rugby that we can play and I will be telling the guys to go out there against Gala and play without fear and believe in each other. Yes, Gala are a good side, but so are we and cup final chances don’t come round every day.”
Maclay will line up at outside centre today while Dempsey has swapped Dan Smart and Scotland under-20 cap Gavin Lowe around, the former now at full-back and the latter at stand-off.
With Tyrone Holmes not available from the Warriors, Polish international Mateusz Bartoszek comes in at number seven and his physicality at the breakdown will be key.
Gala have made a number of changes to their backline for this one, Graham Speirs coming in at full-back with young Gregor Mein partnering Alan Emond in the centre. Ewan Johnstone starts at prop with Ewan McQuillin on Edinburgh duties.
In the other semi-final, Aberdeen Grammar captain Greig Ryan has urged his team to put their relegation behind them and just focus on the tie with Heriot’s at Rubislaw.
The encounter will see stalwart players such as Rob Aloe and Tony McGinness playing their last home match for the hosts and Ryan said: “The league season didn’t go the way we wanted it to for a number of reasons, but we have a great chance of making a final and that would be a great achievement for the club.
“When Heriot’s came up here to us in the league at the start of February they only managed to beat us with a late try so we know we can compete and I am looking forward to it.”
Grammar are boosted by the fact that Warriors duo Fraser Brown and Byron McGuigan will start at hooker and centre respectively while McGinness and young winger Angus Rennie return to the starting XV.
Heriot’s, who last won the cup in 2009 when Scotland cap Chris Fusaro was involved in a 21-19 win over Melrose, travel with Cameron Ferguson back to partner Keith Buchan in the centre.
Their backline is full of pace with Harry Boisseau, Liam Steele and Colin Goudie an exciting-looking back three.
They also have Warriors hooker Kevin Bryce starting and his tussle with former Goldenacre favourite Brown will be a key battle.