Motherwell’s beaten stars have vowed to make sure defeat to Celtic acts as a learning curve – as they plan ahead to future visits to Hampden.
It had been 20 years since ‘Well’s last Scottish Cup final but, after three trips to Hampden this season, the players are hoping the familiarity continues and the club won’t have to wait another two decades for the next Hampden showpiece.
21-year old Motherwell star Jamie Murphy summed up his mix of disappointment and determination: “That’s not something I want to go through again; standing there as runners-up, watching the other team go up and lift the trophy.
“It gives you a bit of inspiration to try and get back to this stage and be the one up there lifting the trophy.
“Being here shows that we do have the ability to make it to finals and we want to play at Hampden and play in semi-finals and finals every year. Hopefully if the squad stays together in the summer then we can be back here soon.”
Murphy also bemoaned the difference in fortune between two key strikes in the first half – Ki Sung-Yeung’s, which rocketed into the bottom corner and Gavin Gunning’s, which rattled the frame of the bar and bounced out.
Those chances somewhat set the tone for an afternoon which never looked like being the Steelmen’s day.
“We had a gameplan and wanted to keep things tight,” Murphy said. “But then Ki scores a goal with his weak foot which is so good that I’m sure he’s never done before.
“Then Gavin hits the underside of the bar with his shot and that’s the break they needed; just that bit of luck that we didn’t have, and they pushed on from there.”
Motherwell stalwart and midfield orchestrator Keith Lasley was another player who was visibly devastated by the result after the match but, like Murphy, he clung on to some semblance of positivity following Celtic’s Cup win.
A European run, two semi-finals, a final and a top-six finish has to be considered a positive campaign for ‘Well – and now the focus is on keeping the squad together and achieving the same next season.
“It’s key to keep the squad together,” Lasley insisted. “I suppose that’s the down side to having a good season; teams start to circle around your players.
“If we can keep the core of this squad together then I think we have a good chance of emulating this season.”
And the 31-year old also paid special tribute to the noisy, colourful band of ‘Well fans who made one half of Hampden their home for 90 minutes.
Over 16,000 supporters made the journey to Glasgow’s South side, and there was palpable disappointment from Keith that he couldn’t help to give them the trophy they so desperately yearned.
Lasley lauded: “To walk out and see all those fans was special. I’ve been at this club a long time and you get to know a lot of the supporters, and what they sacrifice to follow this club is unbelievable. I’m really gutted when I think about all of those people.
“They follow through the bad times and through the good; spend every penny they’ve got, and the support was tremendous, but I expected nothing less.”