Barrie McKay shrugs off 2016 comparisons as he insists Hearts are ready for final

Hearts playmaker Barrie McKay knows all about the ‘rust-versus-rest’ quandary affecting players going into a big match like this Saturday’s Scottish Cup final.

By Craig Fowler
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:00 am

The 27-year-old was a key member of the Rangers side who defeated Celtic in the 2016 Scottish Cup semi-final despite being a division below at the time. He even netted an incredible goal in the victory, which Rangers claimed on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

But while that was an emotional result for the Ibrox side on their journey back to the top tier of Scottish football, they failed to complete the job, losing 3-2 to Hibs in the final.

Mark Warburton’s side had wrapped up the title with four league games remaining and then had an extended break before the showpiece Hampden encounter as the Championship season finishes early to allow the play-offs (which Hibs competed in) to be played. There’s a feeling the lay-off contributed to a disjointed performance which aided Hibs in winning the trophy.

Barrie McKay netting from distance for Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Celtic in 2016. Picture: SNS

There’s a similar worry about this Hearts side as they seek to become the latest Edinburgh team to further delay Rangers’ wait for Scottish Cup glory. Robbie Neilson’s men had nothing riding on any of their post-split fixtures as the focus centred around getting players back from injury in order to feature at the national stadium.

McKay, however, insists his current team-mates are in a much better position than the Rangers squad found itself in six years ago.

“It is easier this time because we have had games right up until the cup final,” he said. “The last time when I was at Rangers I think there was a three-week break and that would have hampered us a little bit.

“Yes, it was definitely a career highlight to score against Celtic. Obviously the goal and the magnitude of the game, then we went on and won. It was the first one for a while so it was a big day for the club and for the supporters.

Hibs captain David Gray battles with Barrie McKay during Rangers' 3-2 Scottish Cup final defeat to Rangers. Picture: SNS

“We were on such a high after beating Celtic and then you go to such a low after losing the final. You can win as many games as you want but you do want to be lifting a cup at the end of it.

“The goal against Celtic is at the back of my mind now. It was years and years ago. If another one came about I would be buzzing but I don’t really think about that now.

“Yes I’ve got unfinished business. Every player wants to win trophies and I am no different.”

McKay is far from the only player in the Hearts team with experience of playing in a game of such magnitude. There are a number of players who featured in the closed-door 2020 final against Celtic, while John Souttar, Peter Haring and Michael Smith started the 2019 showdown against the same opponents.

Barrie McKay receives some rough treatment during Hearts' 2-1 semi-final victory over rivals Hibs. Picture: SNS

For those who haven’t, they still got a good taste with the 2-1 victory over rivals Hibs in the semi-final, which set up this clash against Rangers.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than a semi-final against your rivals,” said McKay. “Everyone came through it and the full focus is on this weekend now but no-one remembers the semi-final if you are not successful in the final and go on and win it. “

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