Is this 'Junior' rivalry more heated than the Old Firm?

Move aside Rangers and Celtic, here is a rivalry and hatred arguably much more fierce than the two Glasgow giants.

Ayrshire sides Cumnock and Auchinleck Talbot played each other on Saturday for a place in the last 16 of the Emirates Scottish Junior Cup and in amongst the bottle throwing, fist fighting and police on horseback, some football broke out.

Auchinleck won the battle 3-0 to progress in the tournament, but it will be a game long remembered for the ugly scenes that forced the game to be halted ten minutes from the end as Strathclyde's finest restored some order before the match could be completed.

Unfortunately this sort of image has for quite some time tarnished junior football - a level which can produce some excellent entertainment it has to be said – and this was just one in a serious of incidents that have made this particular fixture such a powderkeg.

The Old Firm go head to head again this weekend and the security is so stringent nowadays that violence in and immediately around the stadium is a rarity. That said it, doesn't stop the mindless elements of both supports getting involved in trouble in various other areas of Glasgow later in the day.

But the scenes from Townhead Park on Saturday are very much a throwback to the infamous 1980 Scottish Cup Final between Rangers and Celtic when police on horses were deployed on to the Hampden turf to restore order (pictured above).

The roots of the Glasgow rivalry are deep, sectarian and a religious one. In the case of Cumnock and Auchinleck, it appears to purely be down to their geographical proximity to each other.

Both towns are less than two miles apart and have both enjoyed relative success down the years, adding more fuel to an already volatile and competitive rivalry so the fact the police were even there shows just fiery the atmosphere is at either Townhead Park, Cumnock’s home ground, or at Auchinleck’s Beechwood Park base.

The pictures in Sunday's newspapers were there for all to see, but some fans believe police were heavy handed in their reaction – despite the aforementioned hurling of bottles and fists.  However you look at it, it’s a poor advert for a part of the Scottish game that has worked hard to attract sponsorship.

For some it backs up the view that the juniors in full of thugs, particularly in the case of certain sections of the media and this latest incident will do nothing to dissuade that sort of thinking.  It’s a harsh assessment of what is a mostly friendly environment full of decent hard working people.

The Scottish Junior FA will no doubt launch a probe into this latest shame, but fans from both sides have been pointing the finger at each other on message boards and supporters’ websites.  The bottom line is there’s nothing wrong with rivalry, but when it manifests itself in such a violent way, there is clearly a problem.

The great divide - just 1.2 miles lies between Cumnock and Auchinleck

It’s also hard to blame either club for this.  While segregation can been applied and policed accordingly for Rangers and Celtic, irrespective of where they play, it’s not so easy to do at a much smaller ground like Cumnock or Auchinleck’s. 

The distance between the two towns is less than the distance between the Old Firm’s respective ‘patches’ too, which also makes it difficult.

Even banning away fans could be tricky to pull off due to the club’s close proximity, so other than a bigger police presence, it’s hard to see just how this kind of thing is prevented again.

In the meantime the police can breathe a sigh of relief over what was undoubtedly a tough shift on the beat in Ayrshire on Saturday. The bad news however is they are due to face each other in a West Region Premier League match before the end of the season.

If there’s to be a plan to stop violence like this occurring again, it had better be implemented pretty quickly.