Stirling County’s under-18 side made history this season when they secured a historic treble.

The County youngsters became the first side to ever win all three trophies available to them, including coming out on top after going head to head with the country’s top youth teams.

Coach Matt McGrandles says his players’ achievements are a deserved reward for their professional attitude.

McGrandles told Stirling News Sport: “There have been lots of changes within the structure of the SRU and the leagues, so this was the inaugural Presidents’ Conference League, which is the youth league, and it was the first time the top competing clubs played against each other home and away. For years we have been saying that in order for players to get better, they have to be playing against strong opposition all the time. There is no point in Stirling County going out and winning by 70-odd points every week because that doesn’t do either side any good. This year was the first year that the Presidents’ Conference was put in and that consisted of the top youth clubs playing each other. The boys essentially went undefeated, and then went on to win the district cup.

“Playing against higher-calibre opposition gives the players focus to go out and compete week in week out, rather than turning up as and when they wished. I took over as head coach in 2014 halfway through the season, and it took me a while to get into the players a more old-fashioned scenario of loyalty and commitment to the club. They needed to turn up to training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, rather than just turning up on Saturdays and expect to win. It has clearly been fruitful because we have had 90 per cent attendance from 37 players every week, which is extremely high.

“It is not just about me trying to preach about how we can become better. It is also about commitment and loyalty from the players. This year they have showed that and they got their just reward by becoming champions of all three competitions.”

Now McGrandles is hoping his successful squad can continue their development by pushing for places in County’s senior teams, and he says the club are doing all they can to aid the youngsters’ transition.

He said: “Stirling County are working extremely hard in the background. The coaches are all in close contact and we are trying to create a pathway from youth rugby to the senior club by integrating more training sessions during the season. On a Thursday there is an evening meal where the boys can sit with the senior players, and the under-18s absolutely loved it because they got to know people outwith their squad, and that adds to the whole experience of what we are trying to do.

“I think it’s important for the guys to understand that in every youth team, not every member makes the step up to the first team. Some of them are going to have to fight for their place in the second team over a couple of seasons to prove their worth and start to challenge for positions in the senior team. I think that’s another aspect we have been working hard to get the boys to understand. It is not going to get handed to them on a plate. They are going to have to fight for their position once they leave the under-18s. They may have been the top dog in that position at this level but once they leave, the bottom rung of the ladder needs to be climbed again. All we can do is prepare them as much as possible for that.

“Last season I introduced a pathway so that if we didn’t have a game, the boys would be considered for second or third team rugby. That continued this season and it is a huge experience for them because they find out that the speed of the game is a bit quicker, the tackles are a bit more physical and the competition is a bit harder. They are able to bring that experience back to under-18 level and really enjoy their rugby after that point.

“First and foremost, the guys need to claim their places in senior rugby, and their rewards will then come from that. Five seasons ago, I was coaching a young Finn Russell and Adam Ashe, who are now established players for Glasgow Warriors and Scotland. That will be a source of inspiration to the current group of guys. It is all about whether they have the work ethic. Some of them certainly do and I can see them challenging for a position in senior rugby next season.”

The head coach reserved special praise for his captain Murray Anderson, whose selfless contribution throughout the season often went unnoticed, and he believes the skipper was a vital part of his side’s success.

McGrandles added: “Murray Anderson was our captain this year and is one of the guys making the step up. He is an outstanding leader on and off the pitch. When I took over I introduced a ‘six leaders’ policy on the pitch, which includes the captain. Murray is not the biggest of players but when he steps up, everybody else steps up and tries to match him. He isn’t mentioned in most of the reports. He is not a district player and wasn’t selected for any of the Scotland age groups, but he is a key factor in the boys winning the treble.

“He is very much an unsung hero, and even though the coaches and players know that, his name doesn’t get mentioned enough outwith that. That’s because he is not a huge player. He is an openside flanker who does all the gritty work on the ground and puts the tackles in no matter what. Unfortunately he gets forgotten about. He is a real unsung hero.”