Cheers ring loud for Celtic but it's back to drawing board for Glasgow rivals
Izzy Atkinson’s 112th-minute winner for Celtic sparked the inevitable scenes of celebration as she delivered the first ever Women’s Scottish Cup to Parkhead. Mobbed by exhausted team-mates and toasted by a record attendance for a Scottish women’s cup final, it was the cheers she couldn’t hear which resonated most loudly.
“My Mum and Dad couldn’t make it over from Dublin. They will be gutted now,” she said. “My seven siblings and my 40-odd cousins were all camped in the sitting room watching it so I am sure that I could almost hear them roaring from here! I didn’t expect that to happen.
“I am just in shock still. What a day. I will remember it for the rest of my life.”
A winger who has not often been deployed as a striker, Atkinson was the grateful recipient of midfielder Sarah Harkes’ vision and creativity. Her turn in the middle of the park before delivering a perfectly weighted pass into the feet of the young Irish woman was the catalyst for the winning goal.
Atkinson slipped the ball through Glasgow City goalkeeper Lee Alexander’s legs – and insisted that she absolutely meant it.
“I took a touch and in the space of a second I realised I was one-on-one with the goalkeeper,” she said. “I saw her legs open and I knew what I was going to do. To fight for so long with a player down and play like that for 10 minutes – not a lot of teams can do that. But we really did fight. We practice with a player down, with two players down.”
If there was a party back at Celtic Park for Fran Alonso’s side to enjoy their moment and celebrate a League and Scottish Cup double, it would have been a wake at Glasgow City’s base at Petershill Park in the North of Glasgow.
The dominant force for so long in the women’s game, few would have anticipated a season that yielded no return. Having played the guts of 80 minutes with an extra player they ought to have seen Celtic off the Tynecastle premises.
Alonso’s side showed guts and spirit to take the victory but it is intriguing to see just where City go from here. A club who have twice reached the quarter-final stage of the UEFA women’s Champions League and a club who are the most successful in Scotland, the winning culture that has been embedded in their psyche will face its biggest challenge this summer.
It has been a fractured season for the club with Scott Booth heading south last summer and Grant Scott assuming control until Eileen Gleeson arrived midway through the campaign. The body language of the City players as they stood at the sidelines watching Celtic take centre stage with the trophy celebrations was notable as they found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being on the outside looking in.
After a lengthy spell inside the dressing room after the presentation that stretched to more than an hour, Gleeson opted not to partake in post-match media duties with captain Hayley Lauder, still in kit, handed that particular responsibility.
But what was perhaps most noticeable yesterday is that City have been denuded of their invincibility aura. How they get it back as Celtic and Rangers lend the Scottish women’s game a look that has been familiar within the men’s game for so long will be the source of some intrigue.