There's no substitute for skill as makeshift team nets trophy

IT was a team made up at the last minute after half its players were forced to pull out.

But a girls football squad from the Capital used their disadvantage to spur them on and ended up winning a UK-wide tournament, despite having only played once together.

The Hibs girls team represented Scotland in the final of the Tesco Cup in Birmingham, beating Northern Ireland in the semi-final and England in the final.

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The first game they actually played together as a team was right before the tournament on a piece of waste ground.

The team got together after it was discovered half of the original qualifying team were not allowed to play in the finals. Under English Football Association rules, which governed the competition, all players must have been 12 years old last August to compete.

Five members of the original Hibs squad were only 11 last August and, despite being able to play all the qualifying games in the Scottish Cup, were not allowed to play in the finals.

After a last-minute change using players from across the Hibs age categories, they were able to produce a winning side.

Coach Allan Harkness said: "It was very much learn as you go in the first game.

"It was all down to heart and the girls will remember it for the rest of their lives."

Paul Tweedie also travelled to Birmingham with the girls as his daughter Lia, 13, was playing in the final.

He said: "We only had two weeks' notice to get everything together and the team had never played together.

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"I was open-minded about how they were going to do but I don't think anyone else really thought we had a chance.

"It was such a great achievement for the girls.

"When we arrived on Saturday we had nowhere to train so we found a piece of waste ground to go over some last-minute tactics before the big games on Sunday.

"They were really delighted to win."

Caitlin Lynch, 12, was one of the girls who was unable to play because she was only 11 last August. But the youngster still travelled down to Birmingham to support her teammates along with friends Jamie-Lee Smith and Kirsty Jefferies, who were also unable to play despite being part of the original qualifying team.

Caitlin's mum, Yvonne Lynch, said: "They got to do everything, they got the strip and got to stay in the same hotel as all the girls.

"They were treated really well and made to feel part of the team.

"They were the underdogs, but they were the better team in the end. Everyone was cheering for them from the Irish and Welsh sides.

"It was an excellent weekend and even better that they brought the cup home."