Scotland Under-16s were left to applaud the Republic of Ireland’s Victory Shield triumph yesterday after losing the decisive final match of the tournament 3-0.
Just hours after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon officially opened the new £33 million National Performance Centre at Heriot-Watt University, the youngsters were unable to kick-start what is being heralded as a bright new era for Scottish sport at the same venue.
An encouraging first-half performance gave way to a disjointed display after the break as Ireland scored three goals in ten minutes, courtesy of an Adam Idah strike and Callum Thompson brace.
Thirteen-year-old Celtic wonderkid Karamoko Dembele was introduced as a 63rd minute substitute at 3-0 but the damage had already been done.
Despite having nothing tangible to show for their efforts, Under-16s coach Brian McLaughlin is adamant the future looks bright for Scotland.
“It’s been excellent how we’ve tried to play, we tried it again today for 40 minutes and hopefully everyone can see what we’re trying,” he said.
“There is plenty of optimism there, we’re trying to change the way we play, we’re trying to do something that we have the ball and are not sitting back and defending.
“To do that you have to start somewhere. It’s that foundation that we need to keep with and be brave with, otherwise we’ll still be moaning in ten years.”
Scotland, who won the tournament as recently as 2013, went into the game knowing nothing less than a victory was needed to get their hands on the Victory Shield after throwing away a two-goal lead in Tuesday’s draw with Wales.
With that in mind, Scotland enjoyed plenty of possession in a first-half performance that was easy on the eye but the lack of penetration where it really mattered ensured that the opening 40 minutes was a largely anaemic affair.
Any optimism that Scotland could get their hands on the Shield evaporated within two minutes when the visitors scored two goals in quick succession.
There were warning signs before the breakthrough goal in the 53rd minute after Tyreik Wright found himself in space in the box but Archie Mair sprinted from his line and made a block with his legs.
It was all too easy, however, as Ireland went ahead courtesy of Idah.
Scotland defenders Taylor Wilson and Binks failed to deal with a long ball forward and Idah pounced on their indecisiveness to cooly round Mair and slot the ball into the empty net.
Thompson made and scored his country’s second two minutes later; the winger encountered little resistance when he glided inside from the right flank before beating Mair at his near post.
Scotland pressed as they attempted to salvage something from a game that had quickly slipped from their grasp but the visitors added third in the 63rd minute on the counter.
Thompson led the charge on his own and, with his team-mates sprinting forward to offer support, the playmaker raced past Harris O’Connor before squeezing a left-footed effort into the far corner past the Aberdeen goalkeeper.