BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CONOR SAMMON enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon at Hampden as he watched his former club Kilmarnock make history by lifting the League Cup.
Now the big Irishman is determined to help Hearts end more than half a century of hurt.
While the Scottish Cup has been good to the Jambos – winning the old trophy three times in the last 18 years – they have not brought the League Cup back to Gorgie since 1962.
A summer arrival from Derby County, Sammon admits he was stunned to learn of the capital club’s drought.
And, as they kick off this season’s cup campaign against St Johnstone, he is adamant that will only serve to motivate the Hearts players to remedy the statistic.
Sammon said: “If someone had put me win the spot and said ‘when do you think the last time Hearts won the League Cup was?’ I would have definitely guessed within the last 10 or 15 years.
“I was told that stat on Tuesday morning and it really surprised me. With the size of the club, and the quality Hearts have had over the last 30-40 years, that is incredible.
“That is something we can use as additional motivation – to be the group of players that lifts the trophy and changes a stat like that. We can use that to our advantage.
“This is a great opportunity for us to go on a good run. We’re so early in the season and I think momentum is a big thing.”
Sammon witnessed exactly what a League Cup triumph can mean to a club when he attended the 2011/12 showpiece to watch Killie stun Celtic with a 1-0 victory, sealed thanks to Dieter van Tornhout’s now-legendary winner.
The 29-year-old enjoyed a hugely successful three seasons at Rugby Park, bagging 25 goals and earning a £600,000 switch to Wigan Athletic – and he lapped up the achievement of his old club at Hampden.
It is a feat he would love to replicate.
Sammon continued: “Two years after I left Killie they won the League Cup, which was incredible. I was lucky enough to be able to come up and watch the game as well at Hampden.
“I am fully aware of how big a competition it is and how great a day out that was as a spectator.
“There had been quite a big change of players by then but it was incredible and it just shows to go what can be achieved.
“Kilmarnock were the real underdogs against Celtic that day so it shows what can be done. From my point of view, I would love to be on the pitch as Hearts go to Hampden to try and end that wait for the League Cup.”
Despite succumbing to a losing start to the Premiership campaign, Sammon believes Hearts travels to McDiarmid Park in buoyant mood after a fine performance, and narrow 2-1 defeat, against reigning champions Celtic.
He added: “I thought we played well and more than matched Celtic. We created lots of chances and there are real positives we can take from it. The only frustrating thing was that we didn’t get the result to go with the performance.
“We can pick the bones out of certain aspects of the game, but it is early in the season and there is a lot that bodes well.
“Sunday showed that we can more than match these sides. Celtic are the favourites for the league and now we know that if we can keep at that level consistently then we can cause problems for any team.”