Caley Thistle forward James Keatings has spoken of his relief at finally being cleared to play in next month’s Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup final.
Keatings’ suspension for next month’s final against Raith Rovers was lifted yesterday, after Inverness won their appeal against his second yellow card for simulation in the semi-final victory over Rangers colts.
It was Keatings’ second hearing, after a three-man panel had originally voted to uphold referee Greg Aitken’s decision last Wednesday, despite video footage showing clear contact from opposing midfielder Ciaran Dickson.
That outcome was rendered invalid however, after the Scottish FA revealed one member did not consider all available evidence.
That prompted a new hearing, with Keatings now able to look forward to the final against League 1 Rovers at McDiarmid Park on March 28 following a rollercoaster fortnight.
Keatings said: “Initially, I was pretty sure it was going to be overturned when it went to the first appeal. To be told it wasn’t, that was a bit of a shock.
“A few days after it, I was feeling the pressure with what was going on and the gut-wrenching feeling of knowing I wasn’t going to be playing in the final.
“Now, it’s a bit of relief at the outcome, but that’s football – these things are going to happen.
“It is how you deal with them and carry on. The manager had spoken to me leading up to the Dundee United game about how I was feeling.
“While obviously gutted, I was focused. With the games we’ve had, it does take your mind off it – but now I’m delighted.”
The video footage of the incident prompted widespread support for Keatings, with former England international Gary Lineker among those to express his backing for the attacker through social media.
Keatings was overwhelmed by the response, with the 28-year-old adding: “It was massive. When it happened, I received messages from ex-managers, ex-players – my phone barely stopped.
“You could see on social media how big it went. It was great for me to see all that support, obviously, especially when it wasn’t just Inverness fans, it was fans from every single club in this country and big pundits down south were showing their support.
“I couldn’t thank them enough for that support.”
Caley Jags manager John Robertson – whose side face Hibernian in tonight’s Scottish Cup quarter final tie at Easter Road – hopes the Highlanders can benefit from a revived Keatings following his initial setback.
Robertson added: “It just shows the power of the football family – not just in Scotland but all over the UK – who have rallied behind James.
“He was understandably a wee bit down when it first came out he might miss the cup final.
“I think he’s had a big boost from the way football has rallied around him, and it’s given him a massive shot of confidence.”