Tuesday 20th March 2018
WHEN Danny Handling unleashed THAT goal, he started giving himself an opportunity.
The chance to make up for the day when his team won a trophy, and he couldn’t be involved in that victory.
And two other cup final days when it simply didn’t go for his side.
Those dates were all in green and white. Now it’s the white, black and gold; the elephant and castle.
It all started to become reality on a cold night in Shropshire when Sons were on top against The New Saints, but struggling for an opening.
Then one swing of Danny’s boot, 25 yards from goal, changed all that.
To some neutrals, Dumbarton’s Irn Bru Cup final with Inverness CT may not carry the prestige of the other two current ‘majors’ of Scottish football.
But try telling that to anybody involved with Sons right now. Even somebody who has been involved in each of the other two with Hibernian.
Danny grew up with the Easter Road club, but as a Dumbarton player, Saturday has no less meaning to him.
Speaking to www.dumbartonfootballclub.com, Danny said: “I’ve been involved in three cup finals before – two in the Scottish Cup and one in the League Cup.
“I played in the 2013 Scottish Cup final when Hibs lost 3-0 to Celtic, and then in the 2016 League Cup final when Ross County won it in the last minute.
“Then, in the same year’s Scottish Cup final, when Hibs played Rangers, I was in the squad, but I didn’t make the bench.
“So Saturday is a chance for me. It doesn’t matter what cup it is – a final is a final. It will be a great day out, especially for Dumbarton, who are in their first final in a long, long time.
“It’s a great opportunity for the club and a massive statement to make. Stevie Aitken, Ian Durrant and the players deserve a lot of plaudits for what they’ve achieved. It speaks volumes.
“Our players just need to try and stay composed and on top of it all on the day. I’ve been nervous at the best of times.
“There was one time when Hibs played Hearts at Tynecastle and I was so nervous that I threw up before the game.
“As long as you stay in control and are fully focused, and do your job well, you’ll be fine.
“My goal in the semi-final is the best I’ve scored in terms of how it came about. The only one that can rival it is the one I scored for Hibs at Ibrox.
“I’d had a frustrating start to this season, but I had the chance to be involved and repay the faith the manager has shown in me.
“Scoring in the semi-final was a release of energy for me after being out injured for so long.
“Winning the trophy on Saturday would be the best thing I’ve done in my career.
“We’ve been playing well and not winning games, which has been frustrating, but to have this opportunity is massive. It’s something we’d really like to happen.”
The semi-final goal was Danny’s first in a Dumbarton jersey, and he scored his second against Brechin on Saturday.
The first was from 25 yards, the second was more like 25 centimetres, but it was no less important as part of a 3-1 victory at Glebe Park.
It meant that Sons are heading into the final in winning form – and their league position looks retrievable again.
Danny is optimistic on that front too, and isn’t daunted by the run of 10 games in six weeks which starts with Saturday’s final.
He added: “We’ll have to get wins from somewhere in that run, but the two wins over Brechin last week were important for both the cup final preparation and the league.
“Our league position isn’t the most favourable but we’re in a good position to get out of it, although it will take a lot of hard work.
“The two wins over Brechin were a positive as despite their league form, they are a tough side to play against and Glebe Park is a difficult place to go.
“To score three goals when we hadn’t been prolific was a good thing to do, especially going into the final, and to send us into it on the back of two wins.
“We’d rather play games than train and it doesn’t really bother us too much that we have a number of midweek games coming up.
“The only problem will be that the boys will start to get tired, but we have a big squad for a part-time team and it’s exciting times ahead.
“We want to play games and stay in the Championship.”