IT WAS perhaps fitting that in the mother of all schools football finals last weekend that St Anne’s Primary School (above) were triumphant.
The school, based in Glasgow’s east end, became the inaugural winners of the Pope’s Charity Cup after an epic encounter with St Brigid’s Primary School in Toryglen at Maryhill FC's ground, which needed extra time to separate two excellent sides.
The Pope's Charity Cup competition—launched in this, the Extraordinary Month of Mission— is a tournament run in partnership with Missio Scotland and the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA and is now a permanent fixture on the calendar.
Anticipation had been building for the pinnacle of the competition after two excellent semi-finals which had seen St Anne’s defeat St Mirin’s Primary School 4-1 and St Brigid’s emerge 6-1 winners against St Constantine’s Primary School. As the game kicked off in glorious sunshine, both teams shone in the opening stages of the match. However it was St Anne’s who opened the scoring in the first half through Johnny Thomson, who had entered the fray after an injury to one of his team mates. He wasted no time in making his mark on the match by slotting a neat finish under the keeper to ensure that his side had the lead at the half-time interval.
St Brigid's came out in the second half determined to find the equaliser and hit the post twice in their search to do so. Both teams had chances, but St Brigid's did eventually get back on level terms through the impressive Alex Egaguie—who had scored four goals in the semi-final match—to force the match into extra time.
This was a real end-to-end affair—and despite the play being briefly disrupted by the introduction of an enthusiastic young pitch invader—both teams retained their focus, albeit the crowd were unsure as to who was going to end up with their hands on the cup.
In the end, it was St Anne's who sealed the win after a long kick from their keeper allowed the energetic young Thomson to run through on goal and his shot proved just too powerful for the St Brigid's keeper as it nestled in the net. It was perhaps harsh on the St Brigid’s keeper as both shot-stoppers were among the top performers on the day who impressed the visiting Premiership scouts and made for a truly brilliant first Pope’s Charity Cup Final.
After the match, St Anne’s coach, Michael Miller spoke of his pride at the team’s performance not only on the day, but throughout the tournament as a whole and enthused about the new competition.
“I thought it was a great game, albeit a little nerve wracking,” Michael said. “I thought we started really well and deserved our lead, but fair play to St Brigid’s in the second half they put us under a serious amount of pressure and got the equaliser. I’m just delighted that we managed to get over the line. I’m delighted for wee Johnny. Unfortunately he can’t make it every week that’s why he started on the bench, but he has pace and a brilliant eye for goal when he’s on the park and you could see that today.
“I’ve loved every minute of the tournament. It’s great to have a good competitive cup at the start of the season. It’s given the boys who haven’t experienced it before a taste of success.”
Michael’s sentiments were echoed by Liam McLaren and Fergus Donnelly from the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA who were instrumental in the competition’s success. They also spoke about the talent on show from both teams, thanked Maryhill FC for offering up their ground and explained what it means for schoolchildren to take part in competitions like this.
“It was a terrific game today between two very strong teams,” Fergus said. “When knew it was going to be a great game after having watched both semi-finals, where both teams were outstanding and deserved to be here. And so it proved, they were terrific throughout the game and in the end St Anne’s were just that little bit too strong and got that 2-1 win in extra time.
“Both of us were here at the semi-finals and we noticed a lot of talent on both sides, particularly St Brigid’s number 10 who was outstanding the other night, but he was very well marshalled today by St Anne’s in particular their number 23, who had a great game,” Liam said. “I thought the captain for St Anne’s, the number 10 was solid throughout the game and obviously the wee boy who scored the two goals goes home as the match-winner so there was a lot of talent on show.”
“Both goalkeepers deserved a bit of credit too,” Fergus added. “It was a great performance from both keepers.”
“The tournament has been a huge success,” Liam said. “When Missio Scotland contacted us to discuss it, it was something that excited us so we took it to the committee and they all jumped on the idea of a competitive cup at the start of the season straight away. The partnership with Missio Scotland has really taken off well and we’re delighted how the Pope’s Charity Cup has gone this season.”
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Maryhill FC and towards the end of the season, around May, most of our semi-finals and finals are played here, so we’d like to thank them too,” Fergus said.
“The feeling of taking part in a final like this and the memories that are created is something that they will take away from this and speak about with their pals in later life for a long time,” Liam said.
“When I was in primary school back in Stranraer, we didn’t have anything like this, so to come up here and see the teams playing in a proper stadium, with lots of fans is an incredible experience for them and something that will stay with them forever,” Fergus added.
Missio Scotland’s National Director, Fr Vincent Lockhart was on hand to make the presentation and he paid tribute to both teams and the organisers, as well as speaking of the importance of the competition and how he hopes to let a very special person get his hands on the cup.
“The game was fantastic,” Fr Vincent said. “The standard of football was amazing. It’s testament to the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA that they were able to put on such a brilliant tournament. It’s important for us as an organisation to be involved in things like this, so thanks have to go to all the organisers. Credit to both teams too. I was quite amazed at the talent and it was a great game, end-to-end. I thought St Brigid’s seemed stronger early on but St Anne’s got through in the end.
“It’s great to have a competition like this. Children in Catholic primary schools collect money all the time for children in other parts of the world and that sense of sharing is something that the Pope feels very strongly about, particularly amongst children. So for them to come out here today and share their talents and skills was fantastic. I’m going to Uganda soon, where kids love to play football too and I’ll show them a bit of video of the game. Maybe next May when I go to Rome to meet with my fellow National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies, I can take the cup and let the Pope have a hold of it! He’s a man who loves his football so maybe that will happen!”
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