Brian Irvine’s Aberdeen career will not be best remembered for his short role in the 1989 Skol Cup final victory over Rangers.
Irvine says lifting his first trophy in the red and white of his boyhood favourites takes just as much pride of place as his winning penalty in the Scottish Cup final triumph over Celtic eight months later, however.
Irvine was a 24-year-old understudy to the Dons’ central defensive partnership of Willie Miller and Alex McLeish, and among the substitutes for the Hampden Park encounter with the Gers.
With Aberdeen 2-1 up in extra-time thanks to Paul Mason’s double, Dons co-managers Alex Smith and Jocky Scott introduced Irvine for the dying minutes in place of Eoin Jess in an attempt to shore up a Reds backline which was coming under increasing pressure.
Although he had a far greater say in his subsequent cup final appearance, when he netted the decisive spot kick in a memorable 9-8 shoot-out victory over the Hoops in 1990, Irvine, who had joined from Falkirk in 1985, says his maiden silverware has not lost any significance.
Irvine said: “Every experience in its own way is unique and special. The Scottish Cup final later in the season, when I scored the winning penalty to win the cup, is almost unbeatable for the experience on reflection.
“At the time, winning my first cup final with Aberdeen meant that the experience in its own right was as special as that final against Celtic later in the season.
“Going up the steps after we had managed to win the cup to lift the trophy was surreal for me because I was an Aberdeen fan, as I have said over and over again.
“Cheering on among the supporters is great in its own right, but to actually be lifting a piece of silverware as a player in the game was as special as anything as it was the first time it had happened for me in an Aberdeen shirt.
“When you think back to that season it’s quite remarkable that we won two cups and finished runners-up in the league.
“You didn’t realise the scale of that, because if you did that now it would almost be like what Celtic did in their invincible season.
“It’s obviously a few years ago, so it’s for the past unfortunately.”
Aberdeen’s victory over the Gers – which was 29 years ago on Monday – was all the sweeter for Irvine given his side had been defeated by Graeme Souness’ men in the previous two Skol Cup finals, with the Ibrox club winning on penalties in 1987 before triumphing 3-2 the following year.
Irvine added: “It was the third time of asking. I came on in the second game as well, when we lost near the end.
“That was a big disappointment, but that was made up for.
“Just like I’ve found in life, sometimes you have to wait for things and a year later we got a chance to do it.
“It was wonderful when we got the chance to lift the League Cup. On the day we came good and got our success on the day, and all else was forgotten.
“The rivalry was intense, it was very real not just among supporters but players as well.”
With Derek McInnes’ Reds side taking on the Gers in Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final, Irvine expects a close encounter but feels Aberdeen could take advantage of match coming so quickly after the Gers’ Europa League group stage tie against Spartak Moscow tonight.
The 53-year-old added: “It’s a hard one to call – even for the neutral I’m sure.
“I think it might help Aberdeen that Rangers have got the European game on Thursday, although it’s at home.
“It will be an interesting game, I just don’t know how it will go. I wouldn’t like to predict who is going to win.”