Scottish Cup Final: hard working Marr have a shot at immortality

Long-serving head coach Craig Redpath has brought down curtain on 14-year association with Fullarton club

Craig Redpath has been a key figure during Marr's rise to prominence during the last 14 years. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Craig Redpath has been a key figure during Marr's rise to prominence during the last 14 years. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

IT’S a big day on Saturday when someone will be crowned … oh, and there is also the coronation to look forward to at Westminster!

That the Scottish club Cup Finals Day should clash with the biggest ceremony this century perhaps says something about how the club game is regarded at Murrayfield, but with a 6pm kick-off the main event will avoid most of the carry on in London.

Saturday will mark a watershed or two whatever happens. Should Marr prevail, they will have inflicted the first defeat of the season on Hawick and win the Scottish Cup for the first time to boot. Should Hawick win, the Green Machine will remain unbeaten throughout the season, a phenomenal achievement with just the one draw against Selkirk on the opening day of the league, to claim the rare sweep of league and cup success.


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And the final will also mark a parting of ways between Marr’s head coach Craig Redpath and the club he has steered up through the ranks for the last 14 years. The club website suggests that Redpath has taken the decision to step back from his multitude of roles – head coach, director of rugby, youth coordinator to name just three – but the man himself hints at deeper disagreements.

“There have been a few issues that make it best if I were to take a backward step,” says Redpath enigmatically before confirming that he will  not be drawn on any fallout until after the final to ensure the club’s focus is where it should be. He is not even coaching the club, Kenny Diffenthal took over ahead of the semi-final and he remains in place for the final with Redpath, presumably, kicking his heels in the West Stand.

It would be a shame if the parting of ways was less than amicable because Redpath has not only been there forever and a day but he has played a central role in helping lift the club from the obscurity of West One to the heights of winning the Premiership last season, beating Currie Chieftains in a memorable final at Malleny Park. He has been central to taking Marr out of the shadow of their big brother Ayr and made them a force to reckon with in the club game. It’s a hell of an achievement and the intense coach is spoilt for choice when asked which of his many legacies makes him proudest?

“The success of the club,” is his opening gambit. “The people in the town walking around wearing the club colours, taking pride in their local club which is just the same as Hawick. And taking the club from such a lowly position to winning the Premiership last season was simply unbelievable.”

Amongst his many duties at the club, Redpath oversaw the development of Marr College students, both at mini (5-12ish) and midi (12-18ish) and this is where he points when asked the secret to Marr’s success.

“It is simple things really,” he says when attempting to explain how Marr came from nowhere (apologies to West One) to win the Premiership.

“You need to get player buy-in first, that’s the most important thing and we have a lot of very talented players at the club. We work to a system and while I think that minis-rugby should be all about having fun, the midis must have proper and appropriate conditioning because we have to play against sides that are bigger and more physical than us.

“We would always get two or three really good players from the school (Marr College) each year but that is difficult now that we are in the Premiership. It can be tough for an 18-year-old to play Premiership rugby, hence the need for conditioning to be ready.

“That’s the formula, lots of hard work, just like we used to do at Melrose (in his playing days),” adds the 53-year-old former full-back turned flanker, who was an unused replacement during Scotland’s 1990 Grand Slam success.

 

I put it to him that Marr’s problems, a small player base and athletes with a small(ish) physique, are almost exactly the same as Scotland’s issues on the world stage?

“One hundred percent,” he replies. “We (Scotland) don’t have an appropriate conditioning programme in place. The development pathway hasn’t really worked.

“Look at Glasgow Warriors,” he argues. “They are a huge outfit that can now compete with the best because of the physicality they bring.

“We get more ‘athletes’ now into the club, rather than the pure rugby players that we had when I played in the 1990s. Our big project (at Marr) has been to be sustainable from within, to get good youngsters coming through our system. This is fundamental to our way of doing things.”

If he’s not got his hands full at Marr, it is hard to believe that Redpath will remain on the sidelines for very long given what he has achieved in the South West corner of the country. If an ambitious club doesn’t want to go up the gears then perhaps Murrayfield might like him to sort the youth pathways, the single biggest issue facing Scottish rugby.

But for now Redpath is focused on just one thing, Saturday’s final. He isn’t picking or coaching Marr this week but it seems only appropriate to give him the last word for the squad of players that he still refers to as “my team”.

“You have to pressure Hawick,” says the (ex)-coach, whose side did just that in the league semi-final before bowing to the inevitable.

“You have to play the game in their half, you won’t concede tries if you are in the opposition half. So you have to play territory, win the kicking battle and you can’t afford to make mistakes. You have to build pressure on Hawick and don’t play too much rugby in your own half which we can be guilty of doing.

“Hawick are a phenomenal outfit, very determined, but Marr will give it 110 percent. We will go into the final as underdogs but strange things happen in finals.

“At least that is what I imagine the coaches will be saying.”

Redpath promises more information after the Cup Final come Saturday but when pressed for any further insights into his leaving Marr all he offers is this:

“They can’t take away all the success the club has had in the last 14 years. They can’t take away where we are now and where the club came from and I wish them every success in the future.”

A future, it seems, without their talismanic coach.


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About Iain Morrison 147 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.

10 Comments

  1. After last year’s Premiership win a very small group of players started canvassing the rest of the team(behind CR’s back,cowardly?), looking for anything negative in the replies to use against Mr Redpath. Evil minority? Or player power? I don’t know but total disrespect shown to a man who took a team from where they were when he started coaching them to the pinnacle of club rugby in Scotland

  2. Most people know Mr Redpath’s nature but what he has done for Marr has been incredible and to be treated the way he has is shameful and a black mark against the club. Just after the club won the Premiership there was a small group of players(very small group) canvassing the rest of the team looking for as much negativity about Mr Redpath (coaching ability, attitude to players etc) all behind his back, looking for anything to use against him, why? Who knows but short memories and large egos has been mentioned in a previous comment.

  3. Most people know Mr Redpath’s nature but what he has done for Marr has been incredible and to be treated the way he has is shameful and a black mark against the club. Just after the club won the Premiership there was a small group of players(very small group) canvassing the rest of the team looking for as much negativity about Mr Redpath (coaching ability, attitude to players etc) all behind his back, looking for anything to use against him, why? Who knows but short memories and large egos has been mentioned in a previous comment.

  4. Hi Paul,

    I’m a bit confused, was it player power that ousted CR or just this evil minority?
    If it was a cabal running the club from within I think you should name names.

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  5. The match was there for the winning we needed Redpath’s experience yet we let player power oust him.
    We have some good players that Redpath got am extra 20% out of and made them winners. They have short memories and large egos

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    • Hi Paul,
      It asks in the replies to be respectful which i will be even though you don’t seem to offer the same to the players.
      I was wondering if you know any of the players personally or are you just throwing insults about?
      There are two sides to every story, there’s only one on show here.

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      • Sorry Kerr, yep happy to withdraw the last sentence from my comment as the majority of the players have been hard working and loyal servants to Redpath for a long number of years.

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