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Smaller in numbers – but Caley Thistle fans aim to raise roof at Hampden during Scottish Cup semi clash

Inverness fan and podcaster Stevie Riley is tipping his team to beat Falkirk on Saturday and reach the Scottish Cup final.

Up to 4,000 Caley Thistle fans are expected to back their team at Hampden this weekend in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk. Image: SNS
Up to 4,000 Caley Thistle fans are expected to back their team at Hampden this weekend in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk. Image: SNS

Superfan Stevie Riley has praised efforts to ensure Caley Thistle have as loud a backing as possible at Hampden on Saturday.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 tickets have been sold by Inverness for their semi-final showdown against League One opponents Falkirk, who are expected to have double the numbers at the national stadium.

The early 12.15pm kick-off time, allied with the cost of booking accommodation in Glasgow on the same weekend as Sunday’s Celtic v Rangers semi at the same venue, are obvious barriers for Highlanders supporters.

A jam-packed fixture schedule as ICT press for promotion from the Championship has also hit fans in their wallets.

However, Riley (pictured above), one of the key figures from popular Caley Jags fans’ podcast, The Wyness Shuffle, praised the club for helping to make sure the most vocal supporters have been grouped together at Hampden.

He hopes this can help Inverness fans – though small in number – be mighty in voice, and said: “I think we will see a big crowd from Inverness if we reach the final, touch wood.

“As for Saturday, you might get a wee last-minute rush and we could take around 4,000 fans.

“When we have low numbers at games, when everyone is placed together then we can make a hell of a racket.

“With the layout of the stadium and the way the club have worked it, it means some of the more vocal fans are together, along with the Section 94 crowd, so it should work out fine.

“The difference for this semi-final compared to when we played Celtic (2015 Scottish Cup semi)… There was a big gap between the South Stand and where the more vocal fans were.

“Everything is much for condensed for this game and that should certainly help the atmosphere.”

Second Scottish Cup chance grasped fully by ICT

Caley Thistle are contesting this weekend’s semi-final thanks to a bit of luck along the way.

Bad fortune fell upon Queen’s Park after they fielded the ineligible Hearts loanee Euan Henderson in their 2-0 fourth-round win in Inverness in January.

That meant good news for Inverness, who were reinstated to the competition they won under John Hughes in 2015.

Since then, Billy Dodds’ side have shown their gratitude for their cup reprieve by delivering big results against Premiership opponents – beating Livingston 3-0 in West Lothian, then coming from a goal down to defeat Caledonian Stadium visitors Kilmarnock 2-1.

On-loan Hearts forward Euan Henderson in action for Queen’s Park against Inverness in this season’s Scottish Cup, but he was ineligible to play. Image: SNS

Riley knows his heroes got a bit of fortune, but he praised the team for making it count to secure their date back at Hampden for the first time in four years, when they lost against Hearts at the Scottish Cup last-four stage.

He said: “Yes, we got back into the cup through the back door, but no one has done us any favours in terms of the draws since then.

“The Livingston game, in truth, was a low expectation match. Livi were on fire at that time, especially at home, so I could never have seen a 3-0 win coming.

“Falkirk have not yet played a team above Championship level, whereas we’ve beaten two Premiership opponents, although you can only beat who you are drawn against.

“It’s been a really good run from us, but we have to thank the admin staff at Queen’s Park for giving us the opportunity.”

Winning cup would be a ‘miracle’ – but Inverness better than semi opponents

Riley accepts going on to win the trophy, given one of the Glasgow giants await the winners of the Falkirk v ICT clash, is not likely.

However, he’d love Inverness to reach the final, and when asked whether promotion to the Premiership this summer would be the bigger prize, his feet were on the ground.

He added: “If we win the Scottish Cup against Celtic or Rangers, in reality, it would be a miracle.

“I would certainly take promotion and we can hopefully use the lure of a cup final to help us with our Premiership push.

“We could then sign players to strengthen the team for next season.

“I’d want to win the cup and promotion, but if I could only have one, I’d take promotion.”

Falkirk have finished as runners-up in League Once to Dunfermline as they bid to reach the Championship.

Riley is tipping the match this weekend to open out into a good contest and thinks Caley Thistle will have the edge come the final whistle.

He said: “Falkirk are looking like favourites to finish second behind champions Dunfermline in League 1.

“(Rangers loan player) Kai Kennedy is someone we know from his time on loan at Inverness and they have (former ICT defenders) Brad McKay and Coll Donaldson.

Rangers’ Kai Kennedy, playing for ICT in 2020, is now on loan at Falkirk. Image: SNS

“On paper, Falkirk are probably a Championship team.

“It will be a strange one, because we’re going to be the favourites to win on Saturday, having been the underdogs against Livi and Killie in the last two rounds.

“I expect the first 20-25 minutes will be cagey. The first goal will be important, although we have seen in our games last week against Cove Rangers and Hamilton, we can still come back after being a goal down, so we’d be confident of coming back should that happen.

“Falkirk play decent football under John McGlynn. His Raith Rovers teams played some of the best football in our division when he was there, but we have the better team and we should be good enough to win it.”

Experience can count for Inverness

Riley points towards the experience in the Inverness ranks – with the likes of Aaron Doran, Danny Devine and Cammy MacKay, as well as first-team/goalkeeping coach Ryan Esson, all involved in the 2015 Scottish Cup final triumph against the Bairns.

He said: “There are players at the club who won the cup in 2015 or played in the semi-final against Hearts in 2019 (a 3-0 defeat). 

“Mark Ridgers played in 2019, with Cammy Harper and Roddy MacGregor on the bench.

“Falkirk have Brad McKay, who was with us in 2019, but, overall, we have more experience and know what to expect from a Hampden semi-final, which could benefit us.”