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Glenafton Athletic 0 Hurlford United 3: Henderson's men net victory over near neighbours

WHILE Celtic wait for their own version to possibly arrive, revellers were drinking toasts to a different Keano in a small Ayrshire village last night.

Hurlford United's Paul McKenzie rises above the Glenafton Athletic defenders to head home his side's third goal, adding to two first-half penalties from Stewart Kean. Picture: Colin Mearns
Hurlford United's Paul McKenzie rises above the Glenafton Athletic defenders to head home his side's third goal, adding to two first-half penalties from Stewart Kean. Picture: Colin Mearns

The hero on this occasion was Stewart Kean, a well-travelled striker who played in the Scottish Premier League just six years ago, whose two confidently taken penalties helped Hurlford United on their way to a first ever Barr Scottish Junior Cup success.

Kean - a squat, bustling No.9 - had scored a hat trick in the semi-final and should have matched that achievement here, only to head a second-half opportunity into the ground and over when it looked easier to score. It mattered little.

There would have been precious few casting that up to him in the celebrations that would surely have followed this comfortable win at Rugby Park, a late header from Paul McKenzie ensuring there would be no way back for rivals Glenafton Athletic. Kean was part of the St Mirren squad that won the Challenge Cup and first division title in 2005/6 but believes this latest achievement was just as significant. "This is right up there with that," he said. "This is the biggest thing you can win in junior football so we'll go and enjoy our day."

Darren Henderson, the Hurlford manager who left Glenafton last summer, praised Kean and the rest of his team-mates for writing their name into club folklore. "They're legends here now, all heroes," he said. "They've done something nobody at Hurlford's ever done. We set records in the semi and we've set them again here."

It was a good day to be a burglar in East Ayrshire. Both Hurlford and New Cumnock, home of Glenafton, are barely dots on the map but it seemed as if every granny, auntie, uncle, cousin and child from each village (combined population: fewer than 8000) had made the short distance to Kilmarnock to support their team.

Rugby Park was awash with colour and vibrant with noise, one enthusiastic bell ringer in the Main Stand providing his own persistent, clanging soundtrack.

Even in defeat there were flares - smoke bombs rather than trousers - and songs of defiance from the Glenafton support at full-time, while the Hurlford fans offered sporting applause as their rivals picked up their runners-up medals. It was that kind of afternoon.

It would prove a day to forget, however, for Ryan McChesney. The Glenafton defender was booked for giving away a penalty in the third minute then sent off later in the first half for more of the same. Both fouls were on Hurlford's Ross Robertson, despite protestations from Glenafton that the first one was soft and the second outside the box. Kean did the necessary on both occasions, sliding his kicks to his left as goalkeeper Brian McGarrity went the other way.

For Tommy Bryce, the Glenafton manager, there was a lingering sense of injustice about the second penalty that effectively settled the game. "I'm led to believe there was no contact whatsoever," he said. "So that makes it even more disappointing."

Eight bookings and a red card would suggest it was another full-bloodied junior encounter but in truth that was more a reflection on the erratic officiating of referee Colin Steven in a match that was robust and competitive without ever threatening to spiral out of control.

As 10-man Glenafton toiled to peg back the two-goal deficit, it was actually to their credit that they managed to keep the heid. They did threaten latterly, although the fact that it took until the 73rd minute for them to cause Ally Brown in the Hurlford goal any real palpitations told its own story.

Instead, a third goal from McKenzie confirmed this was to be Hurlford's day.

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