BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
LUKE LEAHY admits Falkirk’s playoff collapse against Kilmarnock turned his dream summer holiday into a Greek tragedy.
However, he is adamant that pain can drive the Bairns to the Premiership.
Leahy, 24, was left devastated as their promotion push faltered at the final hurdle last term. Having secured a hard fought 1-0 win at home against Killie in the playoff final first leg, they capitulated in Ayrshire, succumbing to a 4-0 defeat.
It was the second successive season that Falkirk have endured a nightmare finale, with their previous campaign ending with a heartbreaking Scottish Cup final defeat against 10-man Inverness.
And, even the sun, sea and sand of the Mediterranean could not erase the memories for him and footy-loving fiancee Lauren.
Leahy recalled: “I went to Greece with my fiancee – but I was still at Rugby Park in my mind.
“She got really into it during the season, because it meant so much to me. By the end of it, she got just as caught up in everything that was going on. So we were both over there gutted!
“There’s nothing you can do to get rid of that feeling. There’s no game after to make things right, like you have in the league. With your entire season riding on one game, it is devastating when it doesn’t go your way.
“I don’t think you get over it until you start the new season. On holiday, all I could think about was the Kilmarnock game. Especially with the way it played out, being 1-0 up after the first leg and then getting battered through there. It was non-stop in my head.
“We’ve felt the same way at the end of our last two seasons – upset – and the manager has said to us that we need to use that pain to drive us over the line this year and make sure we don’t feel that way again.”
A nine-game unbeaten run has sparked hopes that they could make a late title surge, with just six points now separating them and Hibs, albeit the capital club have a game in hand.
But Leahy acknowledges that overhauling the Hibees could prove a tougher task than it was last term.
Leahy has revealed Falkirk felt they could “bully” Alan Stubbs’ Hibs side but is adamant the same cannot be said now.
He continued: “I’ve seen a much nastier side to Hibs this season. Last season we could bully them.
“They were a very good passing side – one of the best in the league – but when it got down to the nitty-gritty, tackling and last-ditch things, I think we had the edge over them. And that showed in the final league table.
“Now they have guys like Grant Holt, who is horrible to play against, and – because I’m a full-back – all I hear when we play Hibs is Neil Lennon shouting.
“That drives the team on and motivates you. I don’t think you want to be on the end of that!”
Morton are the visitors to the Falkirk Stadium tomorrow and Leahy reckons it marks the start of a blockbuster fortnight that could shape their title hopes.
Following their match against the Greenock outfit, Falkirk face Hibs at Easter Road before, four days later, Morton travel to Leith.
Leahy added: “I think the next fortnight will determine whether a title push is feasible, but it will also tell us where we are in the playoff picture.
“That’s is the same for all the clubs up there. It’s a big couple of weeks for all four teams in the playoff, we are all playing each other and anything can happen.
“After the way we started the season, I didn’t think we would have any chance. It was Hibs and Dundee United. So we are just enjoying the run-in. I think this year we will take a step back because, having been through this last season, we are more ready.”
*Luke Leahy was speaking at the Tesco Bank Football Challenge at Deanburn Primary School. Over 120,000 children have now taken part in the grassroots programme.*