Aberdeen embarrassment at hands Darvel as bad but no worse than Hearts humiliation at Brora

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Darvel’s stunning win over Aberdeen must go down as one of the biggest shocks in Scottish Cup history, but there are others competing for top billing.

Hearts’ humiliation by Brora Rangers a couple of years ago is certainly in the conversation, even though they were top of the Championship at the time. Brora, let’s not forget, had only trained five times and hadn’t played for two months due to Covid before stunning Robbie Neilson’s men in a 2-1 win behind closed doors at Dudgeon Park on a cold Tuesday night.

Arguably, the biggest-ever upset came in 1959 when a Johnny Strachan header for Highland League Fraserburgh stunned Dundee 1-0. Dundee had international players and were fifth in the top division at the time – the same position Aberdeen find themselves now. Three years later, Dundee were champions.

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The other one, often forgotten, was when Inverness Thistle, third bottom of the Highland League at the time, beat Kilmarnock, then in the Second Division, 3-0 at Kingsmills Park in 1985. They had struggled to get past Spartans in the previous round.

Darvel’s shock brought back my own cherished memories of playing for Spartans when we knocked out Second Division Alloa and Arbroath in 2003/04 to reach the last 16. Auchinleck Talbot have done even better by knocking out Hamilton and Ayr United in recent years.

But giant killing doesn’t come much bigger than part-timers felling the Old Firm. Berwick’s famous 1-0 win over Rangers thanks to Sammy Reid’s goal at Shielfield in 1967 is right up there – my Dad was there and has told the story many times – as does Celtic’s 2-1 defeat at Clyde on Roy Keane’s debut in 2006.

The famous Sun headline 'Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious' springs to mind, Inverness winning 3-1 at Celtic Park in 2000. Celtic’s semi-final defeats to Inverness in 2015, Ross County in 2010 and Falkirk in 1997 were also momentous.

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Albion Rovers beating Motherwell 1-0 in November 2013 should be on any list along with Aberdeen crashing out 2-0 to Stenhousemuir at Ochilview in 1995. That was the Dons’ biggest embarrassment – until the calamity in east Ayrshire. The Darvel shock factor was certainly elevated by live TV coverage and the fact that there are five tiers between the teams. But the result didn’t come as a massive surprise to those who follow that level of the game.

Brora's Martin MacLean celebrates his side's Scottish Cup victory over Hearts in March 2021. Picture: Ross Parker / SNSBrora's Martin MacLean celebrates his side's Scottish Cup victory over Hearts in March 2021. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS
Brora's Martin MacLean celebrates his side's Scottish Cup victory over Hearts in March 2021. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS

The West of Scotland League Premier Division leaders are in the sixth tier of Scottish football’s pyramid, but would be higher if it wasn’t for a bottleneck above. They won their league last season, only to lose a play-off to East of Scotland champions Tranent for the one promotion place on offer to the Lowland League. They have been very well backed financially and have a squad rammed with players who have SPFL experience. As Jim Goodwin, very graciously, admitted, they were the better team on the night and thoroughly deserved their win. Willie Miller reckoned Darvel looked more like a Premiership team than the Dons in the first half.

As for Hibs, their biggest embarrassment came in 1984 when they lost a third-round replay 2-0 to East Fife at Bayview. It wasn't Hibs’ most glorious era, and East Fife finished the season runners-up in the Second Division. Still, it was the first time a team from the bottom league had beaten a Premier Division side since reconstruction in 1975.

Hibs did experience further Scottish Cup embarrassment in 1999 when beaten by Second Division Stirling Albion after a replay, but only one tier separated the teams then.

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It was certainly nowhere near as bad as Hearts losing to Brora. Along with Darvel’s win, because of the 56 places separating them in the pyramid, the circumstances surrounding the Hearts embarrassment on the Sutherland coast means it remains joint-top of my list.

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