Hearts winger Jake Mulraney ready for goals against Celtic after one low-key cup final

Jake Mulraney’s only cup final experience was 14 months ago in the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup. “This will be slightly bigger,” he says of Saturday’s Scottish Cup climax against Celtic at Hampden Park.

Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 6:30 am
Jake Mulraney

The Irishman was part of Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s team which beat Dumbarton 1-0 thanks to Carl Tremarco’s 90th-minute winner at McDiarmid Park. Now he is on a more grandiose platform trying to stop Celtic winning a Treble Treble.

Mulraney scored for Hearts at Parkhead in Sunday’s season-ending Premiership fixture and is convinced they can cause further problems for the same opponents at Hampden.

“I played in that final before but we have international boys and lads who have been on the biggest stages,” said the 23-year-old. “In terms of experience, I think we’re alright. Celtic are a very good side but we created chances against them and I believe 100 per cent that we can score against them.

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“They obviously are favourites to win it but I don’t know if that tips the pressure because it’s a final. There will be pressure on us from within ourselves.

“They have players who can hurt you. They’re a massive club but I don’t read into that stuff. It’s a game of football against another set of players at the end of the day.”

That said, there is still pressure to perform to ensure you are involved in a game of such magnitude. “Definitely,” admitted Mulraney. “Every training session until the final is important, never mind every match.

“Everybody is trying to get themselves into the cup final team. Anything can happen. We can definitely score goals against Celtic. We can take good bits from Sunday and we’ve beaten Celtic already this year.”

Mulraney’s clever finish allowed Hearts to capitalise on a moment of dithering by the Celtic goalkeeper Scott Bain on Sunday. The Scotland internationalist was caught in possession by Craig Wighton before Sean Clare squared the loose ball towards Mulraney.

The winger angled a clever finish over the scrambling Bain and into the top corner of the net to level the scoreline at 1-1. He explained his thought process having wasted similar chances for a first-time finish at previous points this season.

“I think it’s a mental thing. You do get a little bit of nerves when it’s coming to you. I have had a couple of opportunities like that recently and I haven’t done the right thing. This time I had an idea of what to do and thank God it went in.”

Mulraney might be in his early 20s but the youthful team named by Hearts manager Craig Levein at the weekend left him as one of the more experienced figures. More established names were left out to preserve their fitness for the final.

Left-back Aaron Hickey started the match aged 16, with midfielders Connor Smith and Andy Irving 17 and 19 respectively.

“I think the average age of the team was 21 or 22 because we had a lot of young boys, who all did very well. We were disappointed not to come away with something,” said Mulraney.

“Some of the young lads gave a great account of themselves. They could have done enough to get themselves in the team [for the final].

“I love what the gaffer does because he just throws young boys in whenever. He started Connor Smith away at Hibs and it’s great for the young boys. That says it all. I’d love for us to get something for him [Levein] before the end of the season.

“We started the campaign really well and we were top of the league, then we got injuries to Steven Naismith, Christophe Berra, John Souttar, Peter Haring and Uche Ikpeazu.

“We were still up challenging for Europe and now we have a cup final to look forward to. If you look at like that, it probably hasn’t been as bad as some have made it out to be.”