St. Mirren in the Drybrough Cup
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Aberdeen, 26th January 2020)
The Drybrough Cup, named after the brewery company, was the first sponsored competition exclusive to Scottish clubs, and ran on six occasions during the 1970s. The competition was established in 1971, a year after a similar tournament - the Watney Cup - had been introduced in England. It was open to the four highest scoring clubs from each of the two divisions in the preceding season, with a seeded draw to keep the top division clubs apart in the opening round. All matches were played to a finish on the day, with extra time and penalties as necessary, and the tournament was completed within a single week before the start of the traditional season. The winners of the first round ties progressed to a midweek semi-final, with the final taking place on the following Saturday.
Aberdeen v St. Mirren 1972
Hibs v St. Mirren 1973
St. Mirren’s first involvement in the tournament came in 1972 as a reward for their total of 84 goals scored in the Second Division the season before. In the first round they were drawn away to Cup holders Aberdeen, who had defeated Celtic 2-1 in the first final. A solitary Joe Harper goal three minutes before half time was enough to end the Buddies’ involvement.
In 1973, Saints’ 79 goals again qualified them for the tournament and, once more, they were drawn away to the Cup holders. This time it was Hibernian, who had triumphed 5-3 over Celtic after extra time in the 1972 final. Second half goals from Munro and Duncan, either side of a Brian Third equaliser, saw St. Mirren fall at the first hurdle again. Hibs went on to retain the trophy with another extra time victory over Celtic in the final.
Celtic eventually got their hands on the Cup at the fourth time of asking in 1974, when they won a penalty shootout against Rangers. When the Scottish Leagues were restructured into three divisions at the beginning of the 1975/76 season, the Drybrough Cup was put into cold storage, as the increased number of fixtures did not allow for it to be played.
The tournament made a brief comeback for two seasons at the end of the decade. In 1979, Rangers recorded their only success in the tournament, defeating Celtic 3-1 in the Final, however they did not defend the trophy for its final edition in 1980.
St. Mirren’s third place finish in the Premier Division in 1979/80 secured entry to European competition for the first time and their modest haul of 56 goals also gained them a place in the last ever Drybrough Cup tournament. In the first round, Falkirk were beaten 2-1 at Love Street through goals by Stark and Logan, McRoberts replying for the Bairns. In the midweek semi-final, Saints met surprise package Ayr United, who had defeated Celtic 1-0 at Parkhead in the first round on the previous Saturday. Morris put Ayr 1-0 up, but a penalty from Doug Somner and Alan Logan’s winner set Saints up with a final clash against Aberdeen at Hampden. The final was a dour affair, watched by only 6,994 spectators dotted around the vast slopes of Hampden’s terraces. Doug Somner netted a penalty to put St. Mirren ahead in 68 minutes, but goals from Jarvie (74) and Cowan (82) ensured that Aberdeen would have the honour of being the first and last winners of the trophy.
St. Mirren v Aberdeen 1980
St. Mirren v Ayr U. 1980
St. Mirren v Falkirk 1980
The number of games played in the Drybrough Cup competitions make it a suitable subject for a relatively small and interesting programme collection. It is known that 29 of the 42 ties saw programmes issued, and all five of Saints matches were included. The clubs produced standard league issues for the first round and semi-final ties, sometimes with a sponsor's wraparound cover, and the final programmes were specially printed issues. The St. Mirren issues of 1980/81 against Falkirk and Ayr United were 16-page landscape formatted productions along similar lines to the home issues from the previous season. However, these were limited in content due to the short notice for each game. The programme for the 1980 final was a 12-page issue, with a colour cover and printed red and black inside. A page of introduction from the league and sponsors was followed by two pages on the history of the tournament and previous results. Probably due to printing deadlines, only the four centre pages mentioned anything on the two finalists, with manager notes, team photos and team line ups. Quite strangely, the only other content was two pages set aside for a quiz on refereeing signals!