Tony McInally: Kilsyth, Kirkintilloch and Liam Rowan Update

Tony, we have our biggest game of the season today with the visit of Kilsyth Rangers for the New Coin Holdings West of Scotland Cup semi-final. They have been doing really well in the Super First Division. Have you had a change to watch them play recently? 

Yes we respect all opponents so we have taken the opportunity to have Kilsyth watched since the draw was made. We watched them against Yoker (away) and Girvan (home) so we see how they play home and away in terms of shape, personnel and formation. 

They are a very compact and solid team who are on top of the Super First Division on merit. I expect them to prevail in the promotion stakes as I think they have momentum, points in the bag and crucially have games in hand over their promotion rivals that will determine where they finish – it is always better to have your destiny in your own hands rather than relying on others. Looking at the teams near the top, the likes of Glencairn, Shettleston and Clydebank have come with late runs but after Saturday, will have little or no games to play. I would expect Kilsyth and one other to be promoted automatically and believe 48 points will win automatic promotion in that league. 

Who do you think are their main threats? 

In my opinion, Kilsyth’s best player is Nicky Prentice who plays left midfield/winger. He has matured and filled out physically now who has pace to burn and is a real threat in terms of assists or goals scored. I tried to sign him when I joined Pollok as he is an exciting player with bags of talent and potential. In addition to him, Iain Diack and Paul McBride have shown they are capable of scoring plenty of goals this season and we will need to be on our guard. They have good experience in their ranks with Andy Carlin in goal, Tyrell and McBride at the back with Diack and McBride up top. 

We qualified for the semi-final with a 3-1 win at home to St. Roch’s. They have been doing well in their League this season and, of course, beat us at James McGrory Park in a pre-season friendly. How did you approach that match with us as favourites? 

We had St Roch’s watched against Wishaw the previous week so we had good and recent information on them. We were determined that we would not get involved in a battle and niggly stop-start game as this would play into their hands so it was important we played aggressively with and without the ball, played at our tempo and played the ball quickly to move them around. My players were excellent and we had the game won by 50 minutes that allowed us to control the tempo and pace of the game thereafter 

Although St Roch’s scored a late consolation, the match seemed quite comfortable and the second goal in particular, scored by David Winters, was excellent. 

Yes I was really pleased with the professional and disciplined performance of the team against St Roch’s. They are extremely difficult and uncompromising opponents who have given many top teams difficult games. I felt we started well, scored the goals at good times that took the game away from them. All 3 goals we scored were very good and we thoroughly deserved to win the tie. 

Turning to the other match we have played recently, we had a tough match against Rob Roy. Although they had the better of the play in the first 20 minutes, I thought we controlled the game thereafter. 

Yes we had a pre-match blow in that our captain Paul Gallacher failed a fitness test so we had to rejig our line-up and formation. In addition to the skipper, Chris Walker had a foot injury and Grant Evans had a dead leg too so we had limited options defensively. 

I would agree KRR had the better of the opening exchanges however, we should remember Liam had a fantastic opportunity to score in the 1st minute of the game which would’ve given us a dream start. After their goal and for the last 60 minutes of the game, I felt we were the much better and threatening team when we could have won the game. 

Of course, the result in that match seemed of secondary importance after we learned that Liam Rowan had been injured and ended up in hospital for two nights. What was your view of the challenge from the Rob Roy player which led to him getting a straight red card? 

I had an excellent view of the incident as I was near to the halfway line and saw it up close. In my opinion is it was a very reckless challenge, that was extremely late and endangered our player and his opponent. Liam rose in the air from a standing jump with his head slightly turned to flick the ball on but Danny Boyle smashed into him with excessive force and speed plus he lead with his forearm and elbow which meant he crashed into the side and back of Liam’s head too – a shocking and sickening collision. After the impact, Liam tried to stand up but his legs gave way underneath him so immediately I knew he was badly injured and concussed. 

When you see incidents like that, my only concern was for the health of my player and thankfully, our physio John was excellent in dealing with the serious situation. His previous experience of dealing with Rugby players head injuries helped enormously in this incident. 

In fairness to KRR player Danny Boyle he was extremely concerned and contacted the club and Liam himself personally to apologise and was at pains to admit it was a poor challenge and apologised to both Liam and the club which was the decent and right thing to do. 

What’s the latest news on Liam? 

I have been keeping in touch frequently with Liam since it happened and he has been given the all clear from the hospital and doctors. The swelling and blood on his head has completely dissipated and he has suitable medication to get his health back quickly. Liam has been told to refrain from any strenuous exercise for next 7-10 days then he will be allowed to step up his rehabilitation. 

Last time I spoke to Liam by phone, he was in very good spirits and he is determined to get to full fitness soon. He accepts its part of football being a contact sport and he is very confident he will be back to training and fitness in near future. 

From my perspective, we will take things slowly with Liam’s recuperation and we need to ensure his health improves well enough in order that we can welcome him back into the fold in near future.