I hope you never get kidney stones. This happened to me a week past Friday. Excruciating pain, excruciating as in “spewing in the bushes at the doctor’s”. Anyway I was taking it easy last week and missed a whole week’s fitba. Then I decided that I wouldn’t risk a long trip up to Dingwall to see ICT, which is a shame as they blootered Ross County 3-0.
Duncan Stewart Park, Bonnybridge, in 2016. The perimeter fence has gone but the away dugout lives on defiantly.
Staying closer to home, I knew that Camelon Juniors had a quarter final replay with Kilwinning Rangers and that was only a 40 minute drive away.
I was surprised to see I hadn’t been at a game at Camelon since 1994 and was looking forward to this replay as the first game had been a cracker. I decided to take a short detour into Bonnybridge first and see what was left of Duncan Stewart Park, former home of Bonnybridge Juniors. Even though I remembered the park being just off the High Street I still had a bit of a problem finding it as Bonnybridge, like everywhere else, hasn’t half sprouted a load of houses since I was last there.
Footage from Bonnybridge v Whitburn 1997
Bonnybridge Juniors bit the dust in September 2003 after a 55-year existence following wrangles with Falkirk Council over the lease of the park and clubhouse. They failed to return after their year’s abeyance as they no longer had first call on the pitch. I think they also had the perennial problem of not enough committee. The area has been prettified into a sort of leisure area and there’s even a nature reserve, but the original pitch remains. Two amateur teams were getting ready to play on the park so after a quick look I was off 3 miles up the road to Camelon.
A very spring-like day it was so I treated myself to a quick pint in the Union Inn then off to Carmuirs. From one defunct club to one that is very much alive. Camelon Juniors were founded in 1920 and although they won the old East Region a few times they have yet to win the current set-up, the East Superleague. They did however win the Scottish Junior Cup in 1994-5, beating Whitburn 2-0. Their most notable players in modern times have been Kevin “Crunchie” McAllister (Falkirk, Chelsea and Hibs) and Jack Ross (Clyde, Hartlepool and Falkirk). It has to be said that Carmuirs Park has one of the better playing surfaces in the East Juniors. It’s also in quite a picturesque location by the Forth & Clyde Canal and the club are nicknamed “The Mariners”.
Today Camelon were flying the flag for the East of Scotland in the last eight of the Junior Cup. Apart from Pollok and Arthurlie the rest of the draw was made up of teams from Ayrshire. So no pressure then. Camelon had led 3 times in the first game before drawing 3-3 and most people would have considered them to be favourites, especially as Kilwinning were only in the First Division of the West Superleague.
I knew a fair bit about Kilwinning (The Buffs) from my time living in deepest darkest Ayrshire. My workmate Ian Gallacher skippered them to their only Scottish Cup win in modern times, 1998-9. One time I visited their Abbey Park, arriving off the Glasgow train. The first people I met were 3 masons in full regalia with briefcases, gloves, ties, suits etc. I think they were off to Glasgow for some trouser-rolling event. I asked them how to get to The Buffs park. “F**k the Buffs” they replied.
I got myself a distinctly average pie (£1.20) and settled behind the west goals right in front of the Camelon fan who has built his very own stand in his back garden. I can’t remember the whole story to this but I hope he pays his way. He was well supplied with beer and his mate went for the half time pies.
I was soon joined by a couple of familiar faces in Dave Mackay and Drew Herbertson. Drew in his day job is very much the human face of the SFA, a Keith fan and all-round good guy. Dave I know from the old days supporting Caley in the Highland League. Dave was one of the original ‘Caley Animals’ and there is a legendary tale of him once walking to a Caley home game from his home in Fortrose in the Black Isle.
Dave is still traumatised by the merger that brought about ICT and has never really found another club. Not having such high moral standards as Dave, I have been seduced by regular trouncings of Ross County, occasional trips to Hampden and beating the Old Firm, and even Europa League trips to Bucharest, nailing my colours firmly to the mast of the good ship HMS Sneck. Still, the afternoon’s banter did have a distinctly Highland League flavour as we checked the latest scores in the 3-way battle for the title. Would it be Brora, Cove or Formartine this year?
On the park, it was bad news for the East as The Mariners were generally outclassed and outmuscled by The Buffs. The referee was the (n)ever-popular Duncan Smith. By half time, Lewis, Stewart and Agnew had given the Ayrshiremen a commanding lead. Camelon battled to get into the game and came close several times but a strike from Grant with about 15 minutes remaining was as good as it got. The Buffs sewed it up with a fourth goal by Hanvey and will now play Beith in a 2-legged semi-final with the winners facing Pollok or Hurlford.