Monday 19th March 2018

CHRIS McLAUGHLIN spent Christmas wondering when he’d kick a ball again.

It turns out he’s returned to doing it at just the right time.

Less than three months ago, the Dumbarton left back was condemned to a festive season on crutches after an ankle injury in December’s 0-0 draw against Falkirk.

Twelve weeks on from that day, he was back in Sons’ starting line-up for the visit to Brechin City.

He played 69 minutes of the 3-1 victory – and now hopes that his next game will be the Irn Bru Cup final against Inverness CT.

For Chris, the final would rank alongside only one game – his first-team debut for Ross County against Dundee United in February 2016.

But if that trophy is coming down Castle Road bearing black and gold ribbons on Saturday evening, it could be in a league of its own.

Speaking to www.dumbartonfootballclub.com, Chris said: “I got told on Saturday that I was going to get some minutes under my belt in order to get myself prepared for the final. I needed them having been out for a long time.

“But I didn’t know I was starting. When I found out I was, I was nervous but buzzing to get back playing.

“The most important thing was that the team got the three points.

“I felt my achilles a bit tight but that’s just down to not having played much. I got told that I might come off at half time, and then I was asked if I could play a bit longer.

“In the end I got nearly 70 minutes and I felt fine. I maybe felt a bit of stiffness in my ankle on Saturday night after getting off the team bus but otherwise there were no problems.

“I’d been hoping to get back to action a lot sooner, but I’ve had to do some smaller things to help strengthen my ankle. I then had to take a night off due to swelling when I thought I was making progress.

“I thought I’d be ready to come back in the semi-final against The New Saints, but my ankle just hadn’t healed in time. Thankfully the boys did well – and hopefully I can now get the full 90 minutes of the final.

“I’d say that it’s one of the biggest games in my career, alongside my debut for Ross County. The nerves are about equal.”

Sons head into the final off the back of two victories against Brechin, while Inverness CT’s semi-final against Crusaders is their only win since January 13.

Chris feels that the back-to-back positive results, and the fact that Dumbarton have beaten Caley Thistle already this season, can spur them on to victory.

He added: “They are a good team, but we’ve beaten them before and if we show up, put in the hard work and play the football I think we can beat them again. It’s down to what team shows up on the day.

“Inverness have proven in the last few seasons that they’re capable of winning trophies and we know it will be a hard game, but we’re looking forward to it.

“In the two victories over Brechin we’ve played some very good football. Even against Queen of the South in the previous game, we were good and it was a hard game to lose.

“We were the better side in that one when I was watching, but the way we are playing just now, I think we need to go into Saturday with confidence.”

Andy Galloway

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