BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Andy Shirra was brought up on stories of his father’s football exploits but is determined to have another family fairytale to pass on this weekend.
The Linlithgow Rose midfielder’s dad, Jim, spent nine years with local team Falkirk before spells with Aberdeen, Dundee and Stirling Albion, as well as a stint Down Under with South Melbourne Hellas.
Shirra senior’s switch from Aberdeen to Dundee in 1978 saw a certain Gordon Strachan move in the opposite direction and £85,000 head down the east coast to Dens Park to help keep the Dark Blues afloat.
With a couple of outings for the Scotland B side, one of them against Italy, Shirra helped keep up the remarkable football reputation of Carronshore, the village just north of Falkirk from where Hibs’ Famous Five legend Eddie Turnbull hailed.
Now, it is Andy’s turn to step into the limelight, as the 31-year-old seeks to help Rose produce what would arguably be the biggest shock ever in the Scottish Cup when the travel to face Ross County.
He said: “I’m from Carronshore near Falkirk, which is where Eddie Turnbull’s from.
“There’s a famous boys’ club called Gairdoch United, who have raised a few players.
“My old man’s from there as well and he played with Aberdeen, Falkirk and Dundee. He did alright!
“He’s going along on Saturday to support me and hopefully we can do all of the fans that travel proud.
“My dad played for Scotland B a couple of times, one of them against Italy, so he played in some big games in his time.
“This is definitely the biggest game of my career. I’ve played in the Scottish Cup final in the juniors but I think this is an even bigger game, to get the chance to play against a Premiership side.
“Everybody’s buzzing at the club. It’s probably the biggest game in the history of Linlithgow Rose, so everybody’s looking forward to being involved in it.
“It’s a great occasion for everybody, so I’ve got some family going up. My son, Max, who is six, is going up. It’s our cup final.”
After a meandering road to Hampden so far, taking in the Borders, Inverness, and Wick and Forfar twice, the East Superleague juniors are desperate to enjoy a trip to Dingwall that will be easier to make than some on a crazy cup journey.
Shirra, a scaffolder at the nearby Grangemouth petrochemicals plant, is in his fifth season with the ‘Gallant Rosey-Posey’ and believes their stunning run has helped galvanise a whole community behind a team that had lost a lot of local loyalty with a barren campaign last season.
Their replay victory over Forfar made them the first junior side to reach the last-16 and sparked wild celebrations in the town.
But, after watching County stun Celtic in Sunday’s League Cup semi-final at Hampden, Shirra is realistic – but definitely not dismissive – of ‘Lithgae’s’ chances of turning the tables on the Staggies this weekend.
The former Stenhousemuir player added: “You just never know, nobody really gave us a chance against Raith last season and, even though we lost 2-0, we could have been a couple of goals up against them at half-time.
“This is obviously a step up from that game. County beating Celtic at the weekend just proves how difficult it’s going to be.
“But the fact that they beat Celtic just shows you there can be upsets in cup games, so you never know. It’s 11 v 11 at the end of the day.
“But we’re under no illusions, we’re not expected to get a result. It would be a massive bonus if we got anything out of the game.”