The new year brings new challenges and a clutch of Scottish sporting youngsters are ready to step up to the plate across a range of disciplines. Here are ten of the best.
It’s been a long time since a Scottish golfer was preparing for a rookie season on the LPGA Tour, the biggest circuit in the women’s game.
Gemma Dryburgh earned that exciting opportunity with a top-15 finish in the qualifying school in Florida and will now join Catriona Matthew in flying the Saltire on a tour boasting a record $68.75 million in prize money in 2018.
It won’t be easy for the 24-year-old Aberdonian to make her mark against the best in the game. But she will be helped by the fact she is used to playing US-style courses, both from her spell at Tulane University in New Orleans and, since turning professional, in Symetra Tour events.
It’s great for Scottish golf that long-time No.1 Matthew is no longer ploughing a lone furrow at the top level in the game.
The 16-year-old midfielder made his debut for Hearts back in September (in a 2-1 defeat by Dundee at Dens Park) but he really announced himself in Scottish football earlier this month when he helped stop Celtic’s long unbeaten domestic run.
Cochrane scored the opening goal in Hearts’ stunning 4-0 Tynecastle victory over Brendan Rodgers’ men – becoming the club’s youngest ever league scorer – and also collected the man of the match award (but it was a bottle of champagne so he wasn’t allowed to drink it).
He was sent off in the following match at St Johnstone but big things are expected of him next year. The offer of a new and improved Hearts contract seems inevitable and Cochrane will surely add to his three Scotland Under-16 caps with further international recognition at age-group level.
Edinburgh’s Scottish and British 56kg amateur boxing champion had been tipped to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April but instead elected to sign professional terms with Cyclone Promotions manager Barry McGuigan in October.
The 21-year-old has made a undefeated start to his career as a paid fighter with two wins thus far. The bantamweight secured a debut first-round stoppage over Bulgarian Stefan Sashov at the Royal Highland Centre last month before a second-round victory over Poland’s Kamil Jaworek in Leicester four weeks ago.
Similar to his stablemate Josh Taylor, promoter and former WBA featherweight champion McGuigan is predicting McGregor to be in contention for major titles in 2018.
Not so long ago picking an up and coming Scottish rugby star was a tough ask for the want of choice, now it’s a tough ask because of an embarrassment of riches and the player most likely to break through at international level this year is 21-year-old Scott Cummings.
He has it all: size, athleticism and a good pair of hands, but it is perhaps the Glasgow Warriors lock’s attitude which sets him apart. He boasts a steely resolve that underpins all great players.
He has been ever-present throughout Glasgow’s twin campaigns, domestic and European, and he was called into the Scotland squad during the autumn Test series.
Scotland have strength in his position and Cummings adds to their depth.
Even before his match-winning double in St Mirren’s top-of-the-table clash with Dundee United on Friday night, it was obvious Morgan would be one to watch in 2018.
The 21-year-old’s recent form has helped propel St Mirren to the summit of the Championship and he has been gathering lots of admirers along the way. It now looks likely he’ll become a Celtic player in the coming days in a deal worth around £300,000 – albeit with an immediate loan spell back in Paisley.
Morgan started out in the youth system at Rangers and signed for St Mirren in September 2013. His Buddies debut, in a 2-1 defeat by Celtic, came the following September. Since then the attacking midfielder has become the club’s star man and a Scotland Under-21 player. It will be intriguing to see how Celtic plan to further Morgan’s career.
With a natural presumption that Andy Murray’s career is now nearer its end than its beginning, attention inevitably turns to whether his legacy will include the emergence of another young Scot to carry the torch. Enter Aidan McHugh, who garnered positive reviews by reaching the last 16 of Junior Wimbledon in the summer and had a stint as Murray’s hitting partner, giving the 17-year-old Glaswegian an insight into the SW19 spotlight.
Coached by Toby Smith – younger brother of Davis Cup captain Leon – McHugh’s 30-16 record pushed him to a junior world ranking of 55. And his cameo last month in Murray’s fund-raising exhibition in Glasgow, where he was summoned to play a couple of points against Roger Federer, demonstrated opportunity knocks.
Primed to be one of the youngest members of Scotland’s swimming team for the Commonwealth Games in Australia next spring, 16-year-old Keanna Macinnes is a girl in a hurry.
A product of the Heart of Midlothian club, the former diver will use the Gold Coast for experience but also as an opportunity to land further gains from a training regime that sees her get up at 4.30am most days in the quest for self-improvement.
Macinnes secured her first senior title in the 200m butterfly at the Scottish National Open Championships this year, beating Hannah Miley in a thrilling final. But the highlight of 2017 was her world junior bronze in Indianapolis. By the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo the Edinburgh teenager could be ready to make a massive splash.
David Sole’s exploits as a marauding prop for Scotland and the Lions is the stuff of legend but it is in cricket that the next generation of the Sole clan is making his mark.
Elder son Chris, 23, made his Scotland debut last year as a decent medium pacer and now his 21-year-old brother Tom is poised to get his international chance next month on tour in the United Arab Emirates following a maiden call-up.
On the books of Northamptonshire, the all-rounder hit 54 runs against the touring South Africans last summer to make his case for a county cap. And after honing his skills in club and New Zealand grade cricket, there are expectations 2018 will bring further breakthroughs for Sole junior, who adds off spin bowling to his batting prowess.
It is probably time to stop referring to Jemma Reekie as a prodigy of her training partner Laura Muir and to embrace the potential of Kilbarchan’s latest talent in its own right. The 19-year-old proved her abilities in some style last summer by winning the European junior title in Grosseto, Italy, over 1,500 metres while starting to make tentative inroads on the senior circuit.
Despite battling asthma, Reekie’s times are exemplary. And although the 2018 Commonwealth Games have come a fraction too soon, the stated target is to be in the frame for both March’s world indoor championships in Birmingham and August’s European Championships in Berlin. Her expected appearance at February’s Muller Grand Prix in Glasgow is proof her status is on the rise.
One of the most intriguing stories in Scottish sport concerns the Archibald family of Glasgow. Katie is an Olympic gold medallist in the velodrome and now her older brother, John, a late convert to cycling, is trying to emulate her. At 26, the Olympic train may have left the station, but it’d be foolish to write him off. In just two seasons the former swimmer has left scorch marks on the road, excelling in road races and time trials, breaking national records.
Turning more recently to the track, he became Scottish pursuit champion and was three seconds inside the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games. Selection isn’t guaranteed, but there’s a good chance he’ll be Gold Coast bound for the Games, and perhaps even competing with his little sister to be the first Archibald to win a medal in Australia.