BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
FALKIRK assistant manager James McDonaugh admits the playoffs have brought him nothing but misery after enduring heartbreak with the Bairns and Hibs.
And, while the highly-rated coach firmly believes you make your own good fortune, he is not beyond saluting any lonesome magpies ahead of their second leg against Dundee United.
This is McDonaugh’s third experience of a fraught playoff campaign, with his first coming when he was in charge of the Development Squad at Easter Road during their lamentable 2013/14 season.
He should not be tarnished by the monumental failings of Terry Butcher given his limited input to the first-team but, as an employee and a lifelong Hibs fan, he felt the “devastation” as sharply as anyone in Leith.
Now Peter Houston’s top lieutenant, he was in the dugout last season as Falkirk endured the pain of falling at the final hurdle, blowing a 1-0 lead against Kilmarnock after the playoff final first leg by capitulating 4-0 at Rugby Park.
McDonaugh recalled: “I was at Hibs when they went down against Hamilton. I spent the first game at New Douglas Park in the stand and thought ‘this is great, 2-0 up and plenty to look forward to!’
“I missed the second leg because I was on my A-Licence in Largs. I couldn’t get to Easter Road but when the news came through I was absolutely gutted; distraught.
“It was a devastating feeling. You never believed it would really happen.
“Of course it was possible, with the way the club was sliding at the time, but after winning 2-0 at Hamilton you think the corner is turned. I guess it just goes to show you can’t take anything for granted in these playoffs. It is never over.
“Then we had the disappointment of the Kilmarnock tie last year. I try not to think about my own luck – although I still salute the single magpies on the way into work now!
“You earn your good fortune. It is easy to say ‘we were unlucky there’ but I always try to stay positive. We all do at this club.
“I’m a bad loser and, like anyone else, if I get beat the wife has the Jaffa Cakes out to try and get me out from under the bed, but you need to stay positive and I don’t think it will come down to luck who gets through – I’m hoping it is about who puts in the better performance.”
McDonaugh is adamant Falkirk are determined to right the wrongs of last season’s playoff campaign, when they appeared to run out of gas in Ayrshire after a marathon campaign.
He added: “I was just speaking to the boys in there and I do feel like we are drawing on those experiences. People always say ‘you can’t beat experience’, but you have to be willing to learn from them. We have had that exposure and believe it has put us in a stronger position to go up.
“We want to be in that position again and we will perhaps manage things a little differently.”