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Rooney continues to play it straight

IT seems there might have been more going on during the nail-biting climax of Aberdeen's League Cup final win than met the eye.

Adam Rooney converted the decisive penalty in the League Cup final after guessing that Dean Brill would dive to the striker's favoured side. Picture: SNS
Adam Rooney converted the decisive penalty in the League Cup final after guessing that Dean Brill would dive to the striker's favoured side. Picture: SNS

When Adam Rooney stepped up to take the penalty which gave his side their shoot-out win, his decision to blast it straight down the middle was, in fact, all part of an elaborate game of bluff and double-bluff with Inverness Caledonian Thistle goalkeeper Dean Brill.

Rooney thought back to his time at the Highland club before he left for Birmingham City in 2011 and remembered how Ryan Esson, then the first-choice goalkeeper and still at the club, would usually save his penalty kicks in training.

Esson, he was sure, would have advised Brill on which way to dive. And as it turned out, his spot-kick opponent had indeed done the homework, unfortunately for him.

"At the time, I couldn't have told you where Brill dived because adrenalin took over," Rooney recalled. "But looking at the tape, he went exactly where I usually put my penalties. So, luckily, I had decided to go straight down the middle.

"We'd taken penalties through the week and the standard was excellent. I'm of the same opinion as the gaffer that if you practise penalties then, nine times out of 10, if you hit it right you will score. I've scored a lot of penalties in my career wherever I've been, but that was the most important.

"Nowadays, with modern scouting techniques, everyone knows what you like to do so I've had to vary them, mix it up a bit. We'd done a bit of analysis on them and their keeper tends to go a bit early. So I decided to put it down the middle in the hope he would move and he did."

In his eight years as a professional footballer, Rooney has experienced life at nine different clubs on both sides of the border. Yet, despite his wanderings, or perhaps because of them, the Irish striker has needed no time to settle in at his latest home - scoring six goals in nine matches since his arrival in January.

Kilmarnock are the side bidding to keep the striker quiet and dampen Aberdeen's euphoria on the eve of their open-top bus parade in the city tomorrow. "The main thing is to focus on the league," said Rooney. " "We can't get carried away despite winning the League Cup. We've a lot of important games and very difficult games coming up.

"I hope there will be a lot of fans there at Pittodrie [today] to welcome the League Cup winners back home, but we can't afford to slip up. We need to keep up that work-rate and attitude if we want to keep going.

"This can't be the end of the season for us. It has to be the kick-start for something more. We want to achieve more."

While Rooney was happy to deny his former club their first trophy by claiming it for his latest, a man who used to pull on the red shirt of Aberdeen was watching in the crowd in envy. Barry Nicholson could not help but wish he was out there celebrating on the pitch.

"Without a doubt," admitted the Kilmarnock midfielder. "To get to a final . . . I got there in 2004 with Dunfermline a long time ago, but it's an amazing feeling and they've gone one better."

He recalled his time at Pittodrie and sighed when asked if things could have been different had his Jimmy Calderwood-led team made the breakthrough and won that first trophy. "We felt at the time we had the side to win trophies and get to cup finals and win them but it just never happened" he said. "That was obviously a big disappointment for Jimmy, because we got into positions where we probably could have gone on and won a trophy but we let them down come the end up."

Currently working through his coaching badges, Nicholson has been frustrated at being pushed out to the sidelines by Kilmarnock's blossoming youngsters. But if given the chance to start today, this old hand will show an old club no mercy. "Hopefully they've been partying for about four days," he grinned.

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