James Vincent admits he has only recently started to grasp the full magnitude of his Scottish Cup-winning strike for Inverness eight years ago.
The 33-year-old midfielder scored the biggest goal in Caley Thistle’s history when he burst forward from his auxiliary role at right-back to tap home in the 86th minute as his 10-man team overcame a late flurry from Falkirk to claim the old trophy in 2015.
But Vincent, who returned for a second spell with Inverness between 2019 and 2021, admits it took him some time to fully appreciate the importance of what he had accomplished.
“It really is the sort of thing you grow up dreaming of, scoring a late winner in a cup final,” Vincent told the PA news agency on the eve of his old side’s Scottish Cup final showdown with Celtic.
“It’s probably something that has become heightened over the years, partly by doing interviews like this. At the time I thought it was just another game to be brutally honest.
“I didn’t quite understand how it affected the lives of fans and staff. It’s only when you’re still getting messages from fans about the cup final all these years later that you understand how it impacted other people and that it was the biggest moment for the club they support.
“It’s probably something that I’ve come to realise over the years was such a big occasion and I’m so happy that I was part of it.”
Vincent was sent on by manager John Hughes as a 72nd-minute substitute to try and help Inverness – who were in the Premiership at the time – maintain control at a time when they led their second-tier opponents 1-0.
A red card for Caley Thistle defender Carl Tremarco just three minutes later, however, changed the whole dynamic of the match and Falkirk equalised with 10 minutes left.
Just as the Bairns looked set to turn the screw, the Highlanders broke away and won it when Vincent followed up to tap in the rebound after attacker Marley Watkins had surged from his own half and forced a save out of Jamie MacDonald.
“Circumstances on the day were crazy,” recalled Vincent. “We had ups and downs, a red card, people playing out of position, but I just took a bit of a risk towards the end and fortunately it paid off.
“When I came on, it was still 11 v 11 but Falkirk were getting a bit of a foothold. I went on for Ryan Christie to play in an advanced midfielder position but within three minutes we were down to 10 men and I got moved to right-back.
“John Hughes liked utilising us in different positions, which I felt was a strength of ours. The remit from there was to shut up shop, get to extra time and see if we could take it to penalties but I had the chance to break forward and I took it.
“A lot of the boys had played the majority of the game and were tired, especially when we were down to 10 men, but I had a bit of freshness about me and I was on the pitch so I just thought ‘I’ll have a go’. You don’t get to play in many occasions like that and I just took a gamble and kept going.
“I got myself ahead of the midfield line and it was only Marley up top and he managed to brush off a defender and get a shot away. I still think he should have passed to me but he had a shot and I was in the right place at the right time.
“Even though Falkirk were in the Championship, they had a really good squad and had been on the cusp of promotion for a couple of years. We were the favourites going into it but the tide turned when we had Carl sent off and we probably became the underdogs.
“It was tough, it was backs-against-the-wall at times, but we had a great attitude about us. I don’t think anybody expected us to finish the game the way we did.”
Vincent will be watching his former colleagues from his Glossop home on Saturday, hoping he will be joined in Inverness folklore by a new cup final-winning hero.
“It’s really nice to see Aaron Doran and Danny Devine trying to do it again,” he said of the two remaining members of the 2015 squad. “They’re the two boys, along with Billy McKay who I’m still really close to and still talk to quite regularly.
“Those lads will be really valuable to Inverness because they’ve got the experience. I think they’ve got a nice blend of younger and more experienced player.
“I’ll be watching on television as a fan and I’d love to see them have a go at Celtic and see where it takes them. If they do that and give it their all, nobody will moan regardless of the score.”