The 36th Annual Ayr International Tournament: The Scotland Cup, came to a fantastic end on Monday 27th May after an exciting weekend of footballing action. Teams from all over Britain descended on Ayr and Dam Park hosted three terrific finals on the last day to decide the winners at the 13s, 14s and 15s age groups. We nearly had a winner from Northern Ireland, Scotland and England but it turned out to be an Irish double along with a single Scottish victory in typical Scottish weather; rain and cold winds followed by spells of sun and some clouds!
Under 13s: Dungannon UTD vs Bellfield Royals
Dungannon and Bellfield played out an exciting tie that finished 4-0 to Dungannon after a dominant display. The 4-0 scoreline was harsh on Bellfield however and the game was closer than the result suggests. Nonetheless however, Dungannon were just a class above despite Belffield coming into the match with an unbeaten league record.
Dungannon put on all the early pressure and went ahead in the second minute with their second shot as Fearghal McGarrity appeared to beat the offside trap and slotted home from the edge of the box with his right foot.
Bellfield were almost able to grab an equaliser a couple of minutes later but Euan Grant couldn’t capitalise on the mishap in the Dungannon defence as he fired wide from 16 yards.
Bellfield were made to rue this missed opportunity as Dungannon once again upped the ante and grabbed a second goal. They also soon nicked a third through Adam Evans, tapping in a rebound.
After half an hour Dungannon were deservedly ahead and on top but the 3-0 scoreline was perhaps harsh on the Kilmarnock side. It would remain 3-0 until half time.
After the half-time restart, Bellfield came out arguably being the more dominant side, at least for a spell. Michael Hewitt’s surging run looked promising down the right hand side but unfortunately there was no-one there to latch on to his cross from the edge of the box.
A mistake in the Dungannon defence almost allowed Connor Paterson to score but his shot towards the top corner was saved by goalkeeper Lorcan Quinn.
The Kilmarnock went close with a couple of free kicks as well in a fifteen-minute spell that was all Bellfield – to an extent, as there was sometimes a lack of a cutting edge in the final third with clear-cut chances being few and far between.
And then, on a cruel twist of fate just before the hour mark, Dungannon showed their clinical side when they went ahead following a stramash in the Bellfield box to make it 4-0.
Dungannon continued in the ascendency for the rest of the game and played some very attractive football. It could and perhaps should have been more, with Tom Mullen passing up a great chance to score from close range but overall, he and his team-mates played very well.
Bellfield’s Kieran Orr had a chance to grab a consolation goal but it wasn’t to be as the goalkeeper saved his lob near the end. Bellfield too played some nice stuff but they just could not cope with this impressive Dungannon side that were well organised and strong in all areas of the park, from the starting XI right through to the substitutes that came on.
It finished 4-0 with a deserved victory for Dungannon who duly lapped up the celebrations with a few bottles of bubbly. Bellfield’s Michael Hewitt picked up the Man of the Match award from the officials for his efforts.
Under 14s: Irvine Meadow vs Oxford Sunnyside
Another team cross the sea to take on Ayrshire opponents as Oxford Sunnyside battled it out against Irvine Meadow. In a close fought game that eventually went all the way to penalties, Meadow triumphed to claim the first (and only) Scottish victory of the day, adding to their CAYFA Under 14s league triumph.
Meadow had all the early pressure but failed to score from the efforts of Kieran Connelly and Billy Milne. Sunnyside’s first sight of goal came from a free kick that skimmed the bar.
No team was in control in the opening 20 minutes but after 26 minutes we did have our opening goal. From a cross from the left wing, Sunnyside’s Eoin McCluskey timed his run into the box to perfection and duly side-footed home with aplomb from the right-centre of the box from 12 yards. It was a well-taken goal that matched the equally attractive build up play.
After that goal there were no clear-cut chances and the first half ended with neither team causing the opposition goalkeeper much trouble with most battling going on in midfield in the driving rain.
Again Irvine started the brighter of the two sides in the start of the half but unlike the first period they made their pressure count. Billy Milne – who had missed the target with a header minutes earlier – battled his way into a position to score from just inside the penalty area and let loose with a stunning volley that looped across the goalkeeper into the bottom corner from the right of the box.
Sunnyside then set about creating some chances of their own, seemingly spurred on by Meadow’s equaliser. Eoin McCluskey was proving a problem and he had a 25-yard ping only go just wide, before we witnessed his pace once more as he burst past his marker and squared up the goalie – only to scuff his shot wide.
Irvine then were in control up until the last 5 minutes when the game became more end-to-end. A fantastic save from the Irvine goalkeeper was all that denied Ryan Hatchell from scoring a brilliant header in the very last minute of regulation time: this meant penalties were on the cards.
Irvine won the penalty shootout with Ben Cunningham, Billy Milne, Jamie Lambert and Robin Wilson scoring before Orew Keifer made himself a hero by slotting the winning penalty into the bottom left corner following a terrific save by Cameron Brown on Sunnyside’s third penalty.
Meadow players and fans were ecstatic with the nature of the win after such a close-fought game and it was really hard to separate the sides, as evidenced by the fact this match went to penalties. Sunnyside’s Tiarnan O’Neill won Man of the Match for his display in the middle of the park.
Under 15s: Foyle Harps FC vs Cramilngton Juniors FC
The ‘final final’ of the day was contested between Northern Irish team Foyle Harps and Cramlington Juniors from Northumberland, England. The game kicked off with the weather still pretty miserable but that didn’t stop some very entertaining football being played and eventually the teams and fans were rewarded with some sun towards the end of the game. Foyle Harps completed a ‘luck of the Irish’ double with a win on penalties, after a thrilling second half in particular.
The enthusiastic crowd – at its liveliest of the whole day were unfortunate to witness a slightly uninspiring first period at times – in terms of chances created at least. Cramlington goalkeeper Liam Henderson was forced into an early save from a long range shot but apart from that, Foyle Harps failed to really make any in-roads to the Cramlington goal. This was testament to the Cramlington defence who were as solid as can be for a back four.
This solid foundation allowed Cramlington to go ahead through energetic striker Tyler Searth. On 13 minutes he met Jordan Wright’s inch-perfect cross from the left and netted accordingly to put his side 1-0 up. The next goal would also fall to Searth 10 minutes later when he latched on to a long ball that caught out the Foyle defenders and he dinked a chip over the goalkeeper and into the corner.
The rest of the match in the first half was fairly even as Cramlington seemed to take their foot off the gas a slight touch and Foyle Harps not being able to cut open the red-and-white defence.
The second half got going and again clear-cut chances were few and far between in the opening 15 minutes. Neither side could say they were on top but things did eventually liven up soon enough. Foyle Harps made things interesting as Stephen Duffy slotted home on 58 minutes before Henderson denied the goalscorer moments later with a great save from a volley.
Henderson was proving to be an inspired man in goal for the North-East side and he pulled off another great stoppage, this time thwarting Ben McCourt’s volley from in behind.
Foyle were really starting to apply the pressure but Cramlington still remained dangerous on the counter attack. And indeed it was Henderson in goal keeping things at 2-1 in favour of Cramlington and he pulled off another superb save to stop McCourt once more, this time from a header.
However Henderson’s will was broken in the last minute as an inspired substitution out-done his inspired goalkeeping. Callum O’Hagan equalised with seconds on the clock after a ball in behind the defence was met by Duffy only for Henderson to save from 10 yards. O’Hagan picked up the loose ball however, cut inside and curled the ball into the top corner from the centre of the box. A deserved equaliser for Foyle after their insurmountable pressure on the Cramlington goal in the last 20 minutes which then set up another penalty shootout.
It was Foyle who completed the miraculous comeback and Dean Brown wrote his way into the Harps’ history books as he stroked his penalty home with pace and power with his right foot into the right corner. Liam Barr, Stephen Duffy, Callum McLaughlin and Ronan Doherty also scored from the spot and goalkeeper Kyle Dooghal made the crucial save from the second penalty. A pitch invasion not only rounded off an enthralling end to the game and marking the nature of the victory, but also the end of a fantastic day. Liam Henderson scooped the last of the Man of the Match awards for his goalkeeping display.
All in all, the 36th Ayr International Tournament: The Scotland Cup, was one to remember. Magnificent weather over the weekend was not quite matched on the last day but the football on show certainly made up for the typical changing Ayrshire weather. Teams from all over Scotland as well as Britain had travelled and played in a fantastic tournament and the finalists will never forget walking out to the famous Champions League music.
The music choice was apt as all involved – winners, runners-up, participants; parents, coaches and public fans – all left Dam Park feeling like Champions after a wonderful tournament of football.