GREGOR TOWNSEND'S appointment as Glasgow Warriors head coach in place of Sean Lineen prompted angry reaction from supporters throughout the country.

But there was little complaint from those who had most cause to feel aggrieved, namely the Scottish coaches who have done a sterling job at the grass roots, men such as Craig Chalmers, Ally Donaldson, George Graham and Kenny Murray..

All of that quartet have performed yeoman service during recent seasons, whether bolstering their own organisations, or unearthing pearls for the country's professional teams.

Consider, for instance, the merits of Murray, whose Ayr charges will attempt to make history by winning their third consecutive Scottish Cup at Murrayfield, where they tackle Gala this afternoon. In the last three years, this indefatigable fellow has also steered the Millbrae side to their maiden championship and has guided them to the quarter-finals of the British & Irish Cup, in which they have notable victories over English and Welsh clubs.

Murray has also nurtured such precocious talents as Mark Bennett, who has moved on to Clermont-Auvergne, and Robbie Fergusson, who is still only 18, but is widely regarded as a future international star in the making.

Any mentor would be proud of this record, but, typically, Murray has refused to toot his own horn, preferring to respond to what has been a moderate season by Ayr's recent standards with a calm assessment of where things have gone wrong.

"We lost a few guys last summer, such as Mark, Skippy (their talismanic captain, Damien Kelly), Paul Burke and Pat McArthur, and others have suffered injuries to the extent where the likes of Mark Stewart and Ross Curle have only played together a handful of times," Murray said.

"We also haven't had an out-and-out No.10, unlike clubs such as Gala, but I am not making excuses. We should have done better, but haven't been consistent enough. That is why the cup final is important. We know it will be difficult to get the better of Gala. The fact they travelled up to Dundee HSFP in the semis and won there was a great result and laid down a statement of intent.

"They are dangerous in a lot of different ways, but we have been the underdogs in the last two finals, and we beat Melrose on both occasions, so I am confident that we can cause Gala problems.

"It helps that we have a full squad, and we have options in the backs with people of the calibre of Mark, Robbie, Ross, Grant Anderson, Andy Wilson and Cammy Taylor. We also have plenty of competition in the pack, but we are under no illusions this will be a massive battle and we have to improve a lot on our recent game with them."

As Murray observed, his team still managed to score five tries in that latter encounter, and it would be a brave person who would dismiss the Burns Country brigade. The return of such a stalwart campaigner as Stewart should bolster their midfield and there is pace all over their squad.

But, in Murray's view, the most positive facet of the season has been the emergence of so many clubs capable of challenging for honours. He said: "Melrose have held on to their title, but they were made to fight, and the way in which sides such as Gala, Dundee and Stirling County have improved means that everybody needs to keep raising their game. It has become an extremely competitive league, which can only be a good thing."

"We are disappointed to have missed out on the B&I Cup next time, but we have to be ready to fight to get back into that tournament. And the best way of starting that is by doing well in the final."

He was speaking with a Spock-like logic. But Murray is also passionate about his vocation and his Ayr men will be flying out of the blocks when it matters