Updated: Nov 15
AFTER a year’s hiatus, the Pope’s Charity Cup returned in 2023 and it is a familiar name that is once again etched on the trophy.
The popular football tournament—held in partnership with Missio Scotland and the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA—takes places on an annual basis during Mission Month (October) with the final taking place either at the end of the month or at the start of November.
This year’s cup final ended up being a derby match as St Bridget’s Primary School in Baillieston took on their town counterparts, St Francis of Assisi Primary School, and emerged 3-1 victors after a pulsating, end-to-end match at Toryglen Regional Sports Centre in Glasgow, on Saturday November 11.
With St Bridget's having dispatched St Paul’s Primary School in Shettleston 4-3 in their semi-final and St Francis of Assisi defeating St Mirin’s Primary School in King’s Park 3-2 (AET) in theirs, the stage was set for an exciting final between the two Bailieston primaries, which saw a healthy crowd—including Archbishop William Nolan of Glasgow, Missio Scotland’s National Director, Fr Vincent Lockhart and Baillieston parish priest, Fr Thomas Devlin—flock to the venue for the final. And it did not disappoint.
As both teams sought to get to grips with the game and maximise the space afforded to them, it was St Francis who took the lead midway through the first-half, after a corner caused confusion in the St Bridget’s box, resulting in the ball ending up in the net courtesy of an own goal. To their credit though, St Bridget’s didn’t let their heads go down and on the stroke of half-time they equalised through Oliver Ferrie after a brilliant run and finish.
In the second-half, both teams attempted to get their noses in front and there were chances at both ends, which were only foiled by the goalkeepers of both teams, who had excellent performances on the day. However, it was St Bridget’s who broke the deadlock, once again through Ferrie, who fired his team in front, before completing his hat-trick shortly afterwards to leave the St Francis’ players shell-shocked. Try as they could to get themselves back in the game, St Francis couldn’t get that goal back that might have given the holders something to think about going into the last few minutes of the game. When the whistle blew for full-time, it was St Bridget’s who would be getting their hands on the cup once more.
Frs Lockhart and Devlin handed out the medals and a Mission Rosary to the players on each team before Archbishop Nolan presented the Pope’s Charity Cup to the St Bridget’s captain, sparking scenes of celebration among the players and in the stands.
Archbishop Nolan, who was there to witness his first ever Pope’s Charity Cup Final, remarked upon what an excellent game it was, while also praising the joint organisers of the tournament.
“It was an excellent game and I was very impressed,” Archbishop Nolan said after the presentation. “When I came in here and saw the size of the pitch and the size of the players, I was absolutely amazed to see them being able to run up and down throughout the match and showing great skill too. The game was played with great sportsmanship and both sides were determined to get their hands on the cup even though their energy levels might have been flagging a bit towards the end. And what an achievement it was for Baillieston too, with both of the schools hailing from there.”
He added: “Missio Scotland is such a wonderful organisation. It connects us with the Church throughout the world and does so much good work and this tournament helps bring Missio Scotland into focus and highlight the work it does also, and in turn, helps to highlight the work of the Church too. And the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA is a really historic organisation. Since the pandemic, unfortunately, numbers have been down, but I hope that their numbers will increase in future and that more schools will join up and take part, because it's wonderful to do that and bring the schools together in friendly competition.”
Winning head coach, John McManus, was also fulsome in his praise of the efforts of both players, his Man of the Match and the tournament itself.
“I thought it was an absolute fantastic match played in a great spirit,” John said. “It was a derby game so obviously that’s one everybody wants to win. Fortunately, we did win, but it was a really tight game. St Francis played brilliant football and I thought both goalkeepers were out of this world and saved their teams a number of times. Despite going a goal behind, though, we didn’t panic and kept our nerve and that helped us to just edge it. The game was everything that Saturday morning football should be and we’re all friends so I loved it.
“A special mention for our winger, Ollie, who got the Man of the Match award. He was unbelievable, he’s just a fantastic kid. Every week he gives 110 per cent and his energy is fantastic. He has all the talent in the world and could really go on and make it. He could run all day, he’s a joy to watch and always helps his teammates. So, to see him score a hat-trick in the final today was sensational. I’m so pleased for him.”
John added: “ I need to say a word of thanks too, to Missio Scotland. It’s an incredible tournament and the kids are so excited for it the minute that the league kicks off at the start of August. Everybody wants to be in the final and we were no different. This is the second time we've won it, so we'll be going for the hat-trick next year, albeit that will be very, very difficult, but we're up for it. Thank you so much to Missio Scotland for supporting it!”
For his part, Fr Lockhart was delighted to see the Pope’s Charity Cup make its return, was amazed by the talent on show and explained how the tournament epitomises community, a core value of Missio Scotland and indeed the Pontifical Mission Societies worldwide.
“The game today was absolutely fantastic,” Fr Vincent said, “I mean the pitch size is enormous and yet these guys ran about with tremendous energy, but also tremendous skill. It was highly entertaining. And it was also great to see so many people from their families and also from the two parishes who were here as well. So, it was a great event and we are very grateful to the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA for organising this in partnership with us. This is the third time the final has been held. Obviously there was the Covid-19 pandemic, which has stunted its growth a little, but it’s fantastic to have it back.
“Mission Month is about being a community as Church and that isn't just about saying prayers. It's also about enjoying ourselves and the boys and girls who take part in the Pope’s Charity Cup, I think they see that it’s not just something in their school or their parish, but it's also about the rest of life as well, and Missio Scotland is able to join with them and helping them to enjoy themselves, playing football and so on.”
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PICS: GERARD GOUGH