SCOTLAND’S history is steept in monie’s a stieve an haurdy battle; Stirling Brig, Bannockburn, Flodden, Culloden … but aa thae trivial stooshies wull pale tae naethin this Sunday at 4.15pm at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock.

This is when the twae michtiest Junior fitba teams in Scotland (baith frae Ayrshire o coorse!) dae battle fir the Scottish Junior Cup! New Cumnock’s Glenafton Athletic wull line up agin Auchinleck Talbot. As anither Ayrshire fitba legend, Bill Shankly, aince famously said: “Some people believe fitba is a maitter o life an daith. Ah’m verra disappointed wi that attitude. Ah can assure ye – it’s much, much mair important than that!” This week in East Ayrshire that cuidnae be mair true.

The wee mining touns an villages o East Ayrshire are the anvil whaur iron men o Junior fitba are formed an forged! Fitba is in the bluid o these fowk. Frae ony age we lairnt tae bleed frae skint knees oan ash parks eftir gettin pickt “cock or a hen” an bein flung intae the fray o the “beautiful gemm”! Strappin young fellahs, whaes Olympian physiques defied puir diets an upbringins, wid shower aff the bleck stour frae a Setterday mornin shift at the coalface, then don their strip an buits oan the field o play the samen efternuin. Nou the pits are aa awa, but the community speerit that bred fanatical local loyalty aye-an-oan bides!

Glenafton, kent as the Glens, wir formed in 1930. Named fir the bonnie glen itsel, whaur Burns penned the eponymous sang. It’s said in their verra early days the team played oan a field up the Afton, but frae their offeeshul formation they played oan a colliery-owned pitch in the hairt o the auld mining raws at Connel Park in the village. In 1960, the Glens muived tae their current hame-grund o Loch Park. This wis a reuch bit o grund whaur fowk wid dump aa their ashes frae coal fires – tho luikin at the braw field nou (maintained an manicured bi local worthies an volunteers) an its pavilion an newly-refurbed Campbell Hall, ye’d ne’er ken the lowly ruits o its past.

In this column ah hae afore gien chaipter an verse oan New Cumnock’s raicent social history an its struggles efter the miners' strike o 1984-85 an its grim aftermath. The village loast aiblins twae-thirds o its population – an a third o its housing! But syne the daith o Thatcher (the wumman casts a lang sheddae ower us here!) we hae seen a renaissance in New Cumnock. The influence o Prince Charles an Dumfries House hus seen the centre o New Cumnock reborn – the braw restored Toun Hall an the suin-tae-open stunnin new swimmin pool. Mind, nane o these material things maitter a jot gin a place hus nae hairt or community speerit in it!

It is, an hus aye bin, that aefauld community speerit o the people o New Cumnock that maks the hairt o the place beat! Drive throu the toun the day – it’s a sea o rid an white (the Glens' colours). Evri – an ah mean evri! – lamppost the length o the toun haes a rid an white chequered flag proudly fleein frae it! New Cumnockians, young or eild, hae a spring in their step, an thair a buzz aboot the toun ye maist can feel! It’s electric! Ah daur say Auchinleck’s the same – an Cumnock!? Weel, we’ll no gang there … Glenafton’s committee an directors hae duin a byordnar joab – a superhuman joab – in liftin wir wee team an the village in conquerin aa afore thaim this season (they hae juist becam West o Scotland Super Premier Division champions fir the first time). This hus bin duin wi a budget that’s dwarfed bi mony o their main rivals. Hou they dae it ah dinnae ken – but they dae! Fowk lik John “Tarzan” Campbell, Ian Young, John “Stu” Stewart, Ian “Budgie” Burgoyne, Jim “Meashie” Marshall an a wheen ithers, aa either local businessmen, fairmers or former Glens players, warkin week in, week oot raisin siller, rinnin events, coachin youth teams … a wee fitba club punchin way abune its weicht. An it’s aa doun tae the indomitable speerit o the New Cumnockians. Maggie Thatcher cuidnae bate us – sae whit chaunce dae the Talbot hae!?

The Glens hae a wyce heid managing the team; Craig McEwan, wha hus hud a lang an illustrious career in senior an junior fitba, ably assistit bi Craig Potter, whiles the team itsel hus boys wi strang local ties. Star players this season, Ryan McChesney (an auld New Cumnock name) an Chris Dallas hae owercam the odds tae nou hae the league an cup double athin their grasp!

At the gemm lest Setterday agin Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, the team wir presentit wi the league trophy bi local-boy-made-guid, Sir Tam Hunter. Tam’s faither, Campbell Hunter, hud, fir mony years, the local grocers in New Cumnock. The Glens' pavilion is nemmed eftir Campbell. Sir Tam pit oan a Glens tap an, grinnin lik a Cheshire cat, posed fir photies wi the championees.

The Haly Grail, tho, is aye-an-oan the Scottish Junior Cup. The Glens hae won it afore (1992-93 season) an hae bin near-thing rinners up a hauntle times tae. The Talbot hae a byordnar record in the Junior Cup – aamaist makkin it their ain fir a spell in the nineties/noughties – an nae dout they’ll cam oot fechtin oan Sunday!

Thair's a souch, tho, in the air that this wull be the Glens' year. Gin they play as they hae duin aa saison, an wark as a team (as they hae pruived that they mair as can unner Craig McEwan’s braw leadership) then the prize is there tae be won!

Cam Sunday, at Rugby Park, the “Afton Army” drummer wull beat oot the rhythm fir the anthems they howp wull cairry their team tae victory. Come Awa The Afton, the auld Glens sang, wull resound round the grund as eleeven young men wearin the glorious rid an white pruive Shankly’s fawmous fitba maxim – it’s much, much mair important than life or daith!