A HEARTS fan battling a terminal illness is flying 11,000 miles to see his team play in the cup final.
Gary York suffers from motor neurone disease and is confined to a wheelchair but did not think twice about booking flights from New Zealand to Glasgow.
The 52-year-old emigrated to New Zealand when he was 13 and has not seen a Hearts match for 39 years.
But the prospect of this Saturday’s Hampden clash between Hearts and Hibs is worth the £1,500 airfare and discomfort for Gary, who acknowledges it will probably be his last trip home.
He said: “The last game I went to before we left for New Zealand was a New Year’s Day derby at Easter Road.
“Unfortunately, Hibs won that day so I’m looking forward to a payback.”
He added: “Because of my illness, this is probably the last trip I will make back home and this seemed like a good reason to come.
“I knew Hibs had qualified for the final and on the Monday morning when I saw the Hearts result I phoned my brother and asked him what he was doing for his 50th birthday and if he fancied coming to see the Scottish Cup final with me.
“We don’t get much Scottish football, and I don’t think they will be showing the Scottish Cup final here either, which is part of the reason why we want to get back and go to it.”
Gary was diagnosed with motor neurone disease two years ago after he increasingly struggled to coordinate his right leg.
The disease damages the nervous system and those who suffer from it find it difficult to walk, talk and breathe until those activities eventually become impossible to do. Gary will eventually face total paralysis.
The father-of-two will be accompanied on his last journey back home by his wife, Iris. Daughters Samantha, 16, and Courtney, 14, will stay at home.
He said he was most looking forward to the atmosphere at the match.
“It will be great to see the team again that I used to go watch at Tynecastle every other week until I was 13.”
Bryan Carroll, spokesman from Motor Neurone Disease Scotland, said: “Gary and Iris are travelling more than 11,000 miles, and this shows just how determined some people are to continue living life to the full. By communicating through many channels, we are delighted to help provide special equipment to help make their stay back in Scotland as comfortable as possible.”
Gary managed to get his prized tickets for the game thanks to his brother, Brian, who works in Sydney, Australia, as a horse racing commentator.