The close season is supposed to give footballers – and football fans – a chance to recharge their batteries.
Summer signing James Dolan could count on two hands the number of days off he got between the two campaigns.
A last gasp winner from Findlay Frye gave Cumnock Juniors, featuring Dolan, victory over Rutherglen Glencairn in the Scottish Junior Cup Final on June 2.
Less than a fortnight later, Dolan was pulling on a Stranraer shirt for pre-season.
He said: “I only had about 10 days – not even two weeks – off.
“Then I got asked by the manager to come in and train with Stranraer.
“Initially, it was just to be on a trial period and he said it would be a week or two on trial.
“There were a lot of other boys on trial at the time as well but I just came in on the Tuesday.
“I came in and trained on the Tuesday and Thursday and then we played a bounce game on the Saturday.
“I played quite well and got the call from the manager after training saying he would like to sign me.”
Dolan spent much of last season on loan with the Townhead Park side from Ayr United.
Prior to signing for the Blues, he sought advice from another man who had a loan spell away from Somerset Park: Finn Ecrepont.
The full-back enjoyed a memorable spell with Stranraer at the end of last season.
After hearing his glowing review of the club, it did not take long for the Strathclyde University student to feel at home.
The summer signing said: “I spoke to Finn and he said that the manager was a great guy.
“I had not signed yet, I was just on trial, but Finn said I would love it.
“He said ‘it is a good group of boys and I think you will have a lot in common with the boys’.
“He said ‘Scott is a great coach and it is just a great club to be at’.
“I was getting all the right signals before I came and, from the first training session, it did feel like it was the right fit.
“I just felt very welcomed by all the boys.
“It is a good place to express myself.”
The Blues have had a challenging start to the competitive action, taking on Premiership Ross County and Championship Greenock Morton.
League One’s Edinburgh City are the visitors tomorrow (Saturday) before the group phase is finished on Tuesday night with a trip to Kelty Hearts.
Twenty-year-old Dolan set up Scott Robertson’s goal against the Staggies on the opening day and is enjoying testing himself against opposition from further up the football pyramid.
He said: “It is a big step up from Cumnock.
“I think the style of football is very different as well.
“I think at the Juniors it is a lot more frantic and there is not a lot of ball on the ground.
“It is kind of more of a battle than a football game at times, which, obviously, does not really suit me.
“I think I thrive on it and play a wee bit better playing against better teams, with a better team around me as well.”
Edinburgh City 3-2 Stranraer
A Danny Handling hat-trick was the difference between the two sides when Stranraer made the trip to Meadowbank 11 months ago.
The first was a stunning free-kick which went in off the underside of the crossbar before Stranraer levelled things up. Josh Walker raced onto Sam Ellis’ through ball before rounding Sam Ramsbottom and rolling the ball into the empty net.
Former Hibs man Handling had the hosts back in front before the break and completed his treble with a second free-kick.
The Blues pushed to get back into the game and struck the post before Luke Watt smashed home a late consolation.
Edinburgh City: Ramsbottom, Hamilton, Travis, Watson, Brian, Crane (McIntyre 62), Docherty, Tapping (Murray 63), Shanley (See 72), Handling, Robertson (Murray 63).
Not used: MacDonald, Fontaine and Mutch.
Stranraer: Scullion, Ellis, Girvan, Forrest (Duffy 84), Watt, Dunn, Brady (Hawkshaw 59), Hilton, Woods (McLean 60), Grant, Walker (Malcolm 58).
Not used: Robertson and O’Connor.
Last five meetings
- Edinburgh City 3 Stranraer 2 (Handling x3; Walker and Watt) at Meadowbank Stadium on August 24, 2022
- Edinburgh City 1 Stranraer 2 (MacDonald; Ross and Burns) at Ainslie Park on March 18, 2022
- Stranraer 0 Edinburgh City 2 (See and Handling) at Stair Park on February 5, 2022
- Edinburgh City 3 Stranraer 1 (Robertson x2 and Hilton; Yates) at Ainslie Park on November 12, 2021
- Stranraer 0 Edinburgh City 1 (See) at Stair Park on September 11, 2021
Ins and outs
Ins: Martin McDonald (Hurlford United), Cammy Williamson (Annan Athletic), Ben Hughes (East Kilbride), James Dolan (Ayr United), Kyle Fleming (Albion Rovers), Tom Orr (Stenhousemuir) and Ben Armour (Forfar Athletic).
Outs: Luke Scullion (Broomhill), Anton Brady (St Cadoc’s), Craig Malcolm (St Cadoc’s), James Hilton (Dumbarton), Ikechi Eze and Luke Watt.
Ins: Robbie Leitch (Cove Rangers), Russell MacLean (Dumbarton) and Robbie Mahon (Motherwell, loan).
Outs: James Craigen (Spartans), Robbie McIntyre (Tranent), Robbie Mutch (Ayr United), John Robertson (Linfield), Callum Tapping (East Kilbride) and Danny Jardine.
Last time out
Lineup v Greenock Morton: McDonald, Girvan, Ross, Forrest, McIntosh, Hughes (Robertson 60), Gallagher (Hawkshaw 75), Dolan, Fleming, Grant, Armour (Orr 60).
Not used: McKane, Phillips and O’Connor.
Lineup v Kelty Hearts: Ramsbottom, MacDonald, Hamilton, Mercer, Stirling (Brian 44), Mahon (McNamara 77), Jacobs, Murray (Mair 79), Mitchell, Handling, McLean.
Not used: Crane, Leitch and Quate.
1. Since Edinburgh City were promoted to the SPFL, Stranraer have won just one of the four encounters at Stair Park.
2. Former Stranraer loan signing Conor O’Keefe turns 25 today (Friday). The midfielder joined in January 2019 from St Mirren and made 12 appearances, although just three were from the start. He is now back in League Two with Peterhead. His final Stranraer appearance came in a 4-1 home defeat to Airdrie in May 2019.
3. Edinburgh City were the odd team out in the group last weekend but made up for lost time against Kelty Hearts on Wednesday. The capital club were 3-0 up after 20 minutes thanks to a goal from Scott Mercer and Russell McLean’s double. However, braces from Craig Johnston and Tiwi Daramola – and a goal from Ross Cunningham – turned the game on its head.
4. The list of players to have starred for both sides is not particularly lengthy. However, Lee Hamilton, James Hilton and Mark Docherty can all say they have lined up for either side.
5. Edinburgh City manager Alan Maybury will be in the dugout against Stranraer but also previously played against the Blues. He lined up for Hibs in the League Cup in 2013. The Easter Road side would win 5-3 with Liam Craig scoring a treble alongside an Abdellah Zoubir strike and a Scott Rumsby own goal. Jamie Longworth and Chris Aitken would score for Stranraer while Michael Nelson also scored at the wrong end. The Stranraer team that day was: Mitchell, Rumsby, Kinnaird, Robertson, McKeown, Aitken, Stirling, Gallagher (Docherty 80), Borris (Corcoran 57), Grehan, Longworth (McKenna 73). Not used: McGregor and Fahey.
Admission at Stair Park is on a ‘pay at the gate’ basis via our cash turnstiles.
Prices for Saturday’s cup tie are as follows:
- Adult – £14
- Concession – £10
- Under 12 – free with an adult, £5 unaccompanied
Stranraer FC merchandise is available, and the Pavilion Bar at the ground is open from 1pm for pre and post-match refreshments.
Finally, if you can’t make it to Stair Park. you can watch all the action wherever you are via our live video coverage, presented by our Stranraer FC LIVE broadcast team. The stream will be available to purchase for £11 from our social media channels on the morning of the game, with coverage starting at 2.50pm.
Photos: Bill McCandlish