E ver since he moved from Cartha Queen's Park to Ayr, Kenny Murray's restless quest for improving standards have reaped a rich dividend for the Millbrae club, who have just won their second RBS Premiership title in five years after enduring more than a century without having won any national honours.
Fresh from his team's victory over Currie – the only opponents to have beaten them this season – Murray spoke yesterday about the frustration which had gripped the club during their previous campaign, when they had to settle for mid-table mediocrity and missed out on claiming a cherished place in the British & Irish Cup. "We sat down and worked out that we had to do better, and there was a clear determination, from the players and the coaching staff to the committee members and club volunteers, that we should do everything to make sure results improved," said Murray, whose name has been linked to the soon-to-become-vacant post at Edinburgh, but who expects to remain in Burns country.
"I can't speak highly enough about the way the guys have responded, and it is testament to the way things have worked, on and off the pitch, that we only have four or five of the boys who won the Premiership in 2009, but the new blood has helped to move us forward and challenge for the big prizes so quickly.
" Craig Gossman has played in every game, his contribution has been very significant and he has scored lots of important tries."
Gossman, for his part, spoke warmly of the impetus which he had gained from joining the Ayr brigade. "It's a reward for all the hard work that has gone in and it is a relief to have finally done it," he said. "Kenny's a great coach and has done a really good job. We just wanted to lift the trophy and reward him for all the hard work and faith he's shown in the boys."
These words reflect the trust and symbiosis which exists between Murray and his charges and he was at pains to stress the commit-ment of his confreres. "One of the best things from my perspective has been how the guys have battled on, and recovered from difficult situations, and kept fighting until the very end of every fixture," said Murray. "It is a tough league – the standard is definitely getting better and you can see that from how six or seven clubs could still be relegated or qualify for the B&I Cup – so I am proud of how Ayr have reacted to the challenge."
The latter competition is close to Murray's heart. In recent times, Scotland's representatives have achieved a string of terrific, against-the-odds victories in the cross-border tournament, and he recognises the importance of his charges gaining as many chances as possible to escape their domestic environment.
"It has been a brilliant innovation and you only have to come down here when we are taking on some of the big Welsh or English sides to realise how much these contests mean to our supporters and the wider community," said Murray.
"We missed not being involved last time round, and that didn't just apply to the players, but the supporters, the sponsors . . . everybody connected with Millbrae.
"As a coach, it is pretty tough, because we are not strictly dealing with like-for-like when we come up against some of these English Championship clubs, for instance. But ourselves, Melrose, Gala and others have demonstrated that if you learn from these encounters, you can use the experience to push for the big prizes in Scotland.
Ayr are still on the hunt for cup glory – again – and it seems inevitable that, sooner or later, Murray will gain the chance to move elsewhere. Yet, for the present, he appears wholly at home in the grassroots milieu.
"You can always try to push yourself harder and, while I am delighted to have won the title again, it would have been nice to have gone through the league programme unbeaten, but we couldn't quite manage it," says Murray, whose ensemble travel to Aberdeen for their final Premiership tussle.
"Everybody was ecstatic when we won our first championship, and rightly so, because the club had waited so long for it to happen. But since then, if anything, Ayr's ambitions have increased and there is no sense of anyone resting on their laurels. In fact, I can tell you that it is exactly the opposite."
One would not expect anything less from this coiled spring of ceaseless energy, who has brought vim and vigour to those under his spell.