Inverness Caledonian Thistle were actually eliminated from the Scottish Cup in January, after losing 0-2 at home to Queen’s Park. In true Sion/Legia fashion, that result was overturned as Queen’s fielded in illegible player – Hearts loanee Euan Henderson.
That break saw the Championship side away to Livingston in the next round. Livi were midtable in the Premiership at the time but Billy McKay scored twice at the visitors recorded an impressive 0-3 win. The quarter finals saw Inverness home to Kilmarnock, who took an early lead, but McKay was there to level and Killie’s vulnerabilities got the better of them.
Having binned two Premiership clubs, few gave League One’s Falkirk much hope against Inverness. Billy McKay scored another double along with near-namesake Daniel Mackay at Hampden. That game was one month ago today, Inverness were in the Scottish Cup Final, were on form and occupied a play-off spot with one league game remaining.
That game was home to Ayr United, who were below Inverness on goal difference. Inverness scored an 81st minute equaliser but results elsewhere meant that a point was not good enough for either side. Both pressed for a winner, which Ayr got with two minutes remaining.
Inverness went from beating two Premiership clubs during an eight-game unbeaten run, hoping and expecting promotion, to being dumped out of contention and having a blank calendar for 29 days before meeting Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final.
It would be enormously difficult for Pep Guardiola to devise a fitness plan that prepares his side for a final without a game in 29 days. They would be unable to get much in the way of bounce games. The Highland League broke up for the summer before the Championship. Clubs not involved in the play-offs, or the topflight, would not have a squad to play anyone behind closed doors. And let’s remember, Inverness manager Billy Dodds is no Pep Guardiola.
If you are a betting punter, you can get 18/1 against Inverness on Saturday. For a two-horse race, that is exceptional. I don’t know the odds on an Inverness win when we faced them in this competition in February 2000, or when we faced them again just days after becoming Uefa Cup semi-finalists in March 2003. On paper, Inverness did not have a hope on either occasion.
They would have been shorter odds when we met them in the Cup semi-final in 2015, when a bizarre referee error kept them in the tie long enough to benefit from a useful red card and penalty combo. The only consistency we see with Inverness in the Scottish Cup is that they can find ways to beat Celtic in remarkably unlikely circumstances. Billy McKay and Inverness fans will have no fears for the week ahead.