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Scottish Cup: A year on, what is the legacy of Darvel shocking Aberdeen?

Many say it is the greatest shock in the 150-year history of football's oldest club trophy.

Of the 365 days that have passed since sixth-tier Darvel's almighty Scottish Cup upset of Aberdeen, you wonder how many days, hours, minutes have gone by without someone, somewhere, mentioning that famous night.

To some, the magic of the cup died some time ago. But on 23 January 2023, in a small Ayrshire town known for little other than birthing Sir Alexander Fleming and his discovery of penicillin, the magic was very much alive.

You could sense it on that bitter evening. A perfect storm of fearlessness and friction that saw the West of Scotland Premier League side topple one of Scottish football's most storied and successful clubs.

The hostile home crowd. The blackened sky. The BBC cameras. The under-pressure manager. The Dons bus arriving late. The overly poetic Darvel team-talk.

All of these factors were bubbling up to give the sense that maybe, just maybe, there was a faint chance of history. And then it actually happened.

'I always felt we could win'

The man who masterminded the madness is Mick Kennedy, now a division above as East Kilbride boss. For many managers in his position, a cup tie against top-flight opposition would mean little more than a boost to next season's budget and a chance to wave to the family on the telly.

But the successful business owner was never going to just tell his lads to enjoy it. They were there to win.

"I always felt we could win the tie," Kennedy told BBC Scotland. "There was a real genuine belief in myself that we could beat Aberdeen. It was then how I then managed to convince everybody else around the club that it was possible.

"Most of the fans coming through the gates that night didn't expect Darvel to beat Aberdeen. But as the game developed and we started building a bit of momentum then you get the goal, all of a sudden that belief starts to build for everyone."

That goal from Jordan Kirkpatrick 19 minutes into the tie was perhaps earlier than the manager would have liked, but it provided a moment of celebration that a raucous Recreation Park would revel in regardless.

On a night when the gap between the sides looked insignificant, Darvel only had to ride their luck on a couple of occasions. Leighton Clarkson being wrongly flagged offside in the build-up to a Bojan Miovski finish the glaring example. But what would a cup shock be without a wee bit of fortune?

As the whistle blew and realisation set in that little Darvel had slayed the only Scottish side to have two European trophies to their name, in an instant the club and the town changed forever.

"We were getting emails in from everywhere, every continent in the world," said club chairman John Gall.

"It was Australia, Africa, the Americas. It was just amazing the amount of people that all of a sudden wanted to be connected to Darvel, their long lost granny lived in Darvel at one point. It was the place on everyone's lips."

Dons' Darvel demons

While the world got lost in the Darvel fairytale, there was a post-mortem to be conducted in Aberdeen.

With Jim Goodwin's future already in the balance before their Scottish Cup humiliation, many assumed the writing was on the wall for the Irishman. He was afforded the opportunity for redemption that weekend at a similarly faltering Hibernian.

A 6-0 scudding later, it took fewer than 20 minutes for the manager to be given his marching orders. One infamous step over a cartoon cat-adorned advertising board on the way out of both Easter Road and his job summarised the shambles that had unfolded.

As the Scottish Cup fourth-round rolled back around last weekend, all the questions of Aberdeen asked if they could banish their Darvel demons. They saw off League 2 Clyde in front of the BBC cameras, but a blow of the magnitude suffered a year ago will stick with them for some time yet.

Kennedy and Gall, two men at the heart of that marvellous result, have seen plenty of change in the world's latest lap around the sun. No matter how much time passes by, this particular square in the calendar will always be theirs - Darvel's day.

"It'll be a long time before it's surpassed I think," Kennedy said. "Simply because of the level, size and history of Aberdeen. There's a significant distance between the clubs in every sense. It will take a long, long time that night to be beat."

Gall added: "With the hype about Aberdeen, Mick left the club to move on to East Kilbride. Then a lot of the players have left the club, there's only about three or four left.

"This is maybe a new story for the club, but I'm quite sure that there will be a saying in Scottish football now when there's a potential upset, 'can they do a Darvel?'

"Nobody can take that away for us. That will be here. That will be forever."