Perth’s world number 34 Scott Donaldson was in dreamland last month, after watching his local football team St Johnstone secure a stunning cup double in Scotland.
The former Championship League winner has been a regular visitor to McDiarmid Park since 2011 and was in attendance when the Saints lifted their first Scottish Cup at Celtic Park in 2014. However, due to the ongoing pandemic he was confined to his dad’s living room for this year’s Scottish Cup final.
A solitary goal from Shaun Rooney gave St Johnstone a 1-0 win over Livingston to lift the League Cup in February and Rooney was the hero again last month, as he hammered home a decisive header in the 1-0 Scottish Cup final defeat of Hibernian.
Remarkably the Saints were 10000/1 to complete the cup double at the start of the season, but they upset the odds to stage one of Scottish football’s most remarkable underdog stories.
Despite the frustration of not being able to be there, Donaldson savoured every minute of the historic victory.
“I’ve never been so loud. Even when I play snooker, I’m normally very calm. I was screaming at the telly. Even when the game finished the players didn’t believe what had happened. Whatever they do from now on in their careers they will be legends,” said 27-year-old Donaldson.
“It isn’t even just St Johnstone, the whole of Scottish football, apart from Old Firm fans, will be buzzing with this. They absolutely dominate everything up here. For St Johnstone even to get to a final, let alone win one, is incredible. To then go and do the double is unheard of. Even when Aberdeen did it, they were the best team in the country. I think it is very hard to put into words how big an achievement it is.
“When I started going to the games in 2011/12, Steve Lomas was in charge and we were playing some good football. It was never going to be challenging for trophies though. Tommy Wright, who was the assistant, came in and we started playing brilliantly. We were beating Dundee United every time we played them. If we were beating them, we had a half decent chance. We went on and beat them in the final of the Scottish Cup. I thought that would be the only trophy I would ever see us win. However, this year has been a joke. An unbelievable season.
“I was with my dad at Celtic Park in 2014 when we won the Scottish Cup. It was brilliant. The media, as usual, were hyping up Dundee United and even Aberdeen who we played in the semi-final. They said that Aberdeen couldn’t lose. It was the same again this year. We have proved everyone wrong. Maybe the media might start looking at us slightly differently.”
Donaldson is aiming to lift ranking silverware for the first time next season, having made four semi-final appearances in ranking competitions throughout his career so far. The Perth cueman has vowed to continue to put in the hours, to bridge the gap between himself and the game’s elite. He did just that when he defeated the likes of Judd Trump, Stuart Bingham, Neil Robertson and Kyren Wilson on his way to winning the invitational Championship League in 2020. Donaldson draws a lot of parallels between what St Johnstone achieved winning the double and what is required to reach the very top in snooker.
Donaldson explained: “I put a lot of work into my game and that is all you can really do. If I go through my whole career and don’t win anything else that isn’t through a lack of trying. It is very hard. Snooker is one of the hardest sports in the world. It might not look like that on TV, because the guys at the top make it look ridiculously easy. The gulf between the top and lower ranked players is as big as you get in any sport, maybe tennis is a bit similar. The top players are amazing. As long as I can keep working hard on my game that is all I can do.
“I see a lot of similarities between St Johnstone’s cup runs and the runs I’ve been on. In the semi-final of that League Cup we were rubbish in the first half, but got 1-0 up and went on to win 3-0. Even though the performance wasn’t one of our best, we won the game. In snooker if you can get through without playing that well if gives you so much confidence. You then end up playing well in the next round. It can snowball. That is what happens in sport. That’s why you put the work in. When I won the Championship League I wasn’t playing that well going into it. That can happen. You practise hard for those weeks where you can find a bit of form from nowhere.”