THE prospect of returning to league action tomorrow night following their League Cup disappointment will not seem particularly appealing to Inverness Caledonian Thistle right now.
There is no easy way to lose a cup final but to do so via a penalty shoot-out must be the most galling, Inverness' reward for matching favourites Aberdeen for 120 minutes being a subsequent kick in the teeth. Having been in contention to win both domestic cup competitions just nine days ago, Inverness have just their remaining league matches to sustain them between now and their summer holidays.
If that seems fairly humdrum following events at Celtic Park on Sunday, then the chance to find belated reward for their endeavours this season may help motivate John Hughes and his players in their remaining 11 matches.
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They sit in fifth place in the SPFL Premiership but just six points behind third-place Motherwell, their opponents at Fir Park tomorrow night, having played a game fewer. Should they nudge their way past Dundee United and Motherwell to finish third, that would give them a crack at European football next season, something which would alleviate the gloom currently hanging over the club.
"The season will not crumble, not at all," insisted Dean Brill, the Inverness goalkeeper unable to keep out any of Aberdeen's four kicks in the penalty shoot-out. "The boys in the dressing room just will not let that happen. We have 11 games remaining and we have guaranteed our place in the top six, so our aim now is to finish as high as we can.
"We have games in hand because of the cup competitions and it is up to us to do it. We are aiming to get into that third spot for Europe. You cannot totally compensate for losing a cup final because the boys are hurting. But Europe is the aim with 11 games to go now and I am sure we can do it."
This was Inverness' first major cup final since their formation in 1994 but there was a determination among the playing staff that more would soon follow. "This is not our last chance," added Brill. "The majority of the boys in the squad have been secured to be at the club next season and we'll be back again. Hopefully, we can return to a final and take the next step."
Richie Foran, the Inverness captain, was also certain that the Highland club would continue to progress. "We have players that want to be here and that can see there is something special happening at Inverness," he said.
"This club is going places. The squad is going to stick together, we have everyone signed up for a few years down the line. We are waiting on one or two now and it looks as if they are going to sign as well.
"We have the right people in the background, like the chairman, the board of directors, the manager and we have the right players on the park. Down the line I definitely think we can bring some silverware to Inverness."