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St Bridget's bring home the Pope's Charity Cup

Gerard Gough

THE Pope’s Charity Cup Final took place for the first time since 2019 and saw St Bridget’s Primary School bring the trophy to Baillieston (above) after an excellent 5-1 victory over Castlemilk’s St John Paul II Primary School.

The final of the tournament—held in partnership with Missio Scotland and the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA—took place on Saturday November 13 at Shettleston Juniors Ground in Glasgow’s east end and saw the many people who passed through the gates treated to a fantastic game of football played in the right spirit.

Both sides had reached the showpiece game after negotiating tricky semi-final ties, with St Bridget’s having seen off the holders St Anne’s Primary School, Camlachie and St John Paul II having knocked out the much-fancied side from St Paul’s Primary School in Shettleston.

Those in attendance were therefore expecting a cracking match and neither side disappointed. St Bridget’s had the better of the play in the early stages and took the lead through Jayden Akande with a neat finish. However, St John Paul II players didn’t let their heads go down and came roaring back to equalise through Denver Craig, whose run down the wing and lob over the keeper from an acute angle was a goal of the utmost quality. As the match was nearing the half-time whistle though, St Bridget’s regained the lead through that man Akande again as his cross from the right wing sailed over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net.

In the second half, there was some end-to-end play—much to the delight of the crowds—and although St John Paul II came close to grabbing an equaliser, Akande broke free to score and give his side a two-goal cushion. Despite their best efforts, including a shot that was cleared off the line, St John Paul II couldn’t get themselves back into the game and a further two goals from Akande put the tie beyond doubt and meant that the trophy would be taking up residence in Baillieston for the next year.

After Liam McLaren, the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA President, addressed the crowds, the medals were handed out and the trophy was lifted aloft by the joyous St Bridget’s players.

Head Coach, John McManus, spoke after the match and was fulsome in his praise for both teams as well as Missio Scotland, the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA and Shettleston Juniors.

““I thought it was a really amazing final,” he said. “The first half was end-to-end, and St John Paul II scored a lovely goal, a chip over the goalkeeper, to equalise, but we hung in there and managed to get the goal before half-time, which gave us a big boost. Then we had to try and take the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half. I told the players if we didn’t, St John Paul II would come straight back at us and we needed that early goal in the second half, which, fortunately we got. It was a brilliant game, totally sporting and fantastic from both sets of schools. I don’t even think the referee had to have a word with one player, which was nice to see. I just thought it was played in a fantastic manner and was a great game.

“We told the kids about this new tournament that had been introduced by Missio Scotland and they have been buzzing about it since the start of the season. This is an incredible tournament. This is just the start, the whole season is in front of us, our league campaign and other cups coming, but this is the big one that kicks us off and we have our annual Mass coming up, which is the climax to it. We’re just grateful to have been in the final. The boys have worked so hard, we’ve played three matches and they’ve all been tough games, the semi-final against St Anne’s in particular, but we’re over the moon to have won it and totally love the tournament.

“Thanks must go to Shettleston Juniors too, who came in at a very late stage and provided the pitch for us. They were so accommodating, that was brilliant.”

For his part, Liam McLaren was thrilled to see the Pope’s Charity Cup back up and running and he praised both teams for making it a competitive final.

“I’m delighted with how the final went,” he said. “To have the Pope’s Charity Cup back and the stature of the game we had today really means a lot to the Glasgow Catholic Schools FA and all the schools that are affiliated with us.

“It’s been a really challenging couple of years and we wondered if we’d ever get to come back. However, to be back here today with the big crowd and the great spectacle that we had bodes well for the future and that’s what we’re all about, building opportunities and experiences for kids.”

“The game itself was excellent, both teams really went for it. There were two really tough semi-finals in the lead up to it as well. The two teams taking part were two good sides with big reputations. St Bridget’s obviously ran out 5-1 winners with Jayden Akande outstanding on the day, scoring five goals and proving to be the difference, but in all honesty, there wasn’t an awful lot between the two teams. There was talent on show, the kids enjoyed themselves and you could see the families, parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, brothers and sisters were all here to enjoy a really special morning once again.”

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