The first cup final of the season sees one of Dundee’s youth football institutions Celtic Boys take on the newest club in the league Mearns YFC.
The Celtic Golden Jubilee Cup commemorates Celtic’s 50th Anniversary, which was celebrated in 2017, but new boys Mearns, formed in 2015, will be hoping to write the first chapter in their club’s history book.
Ahead of the final, YFS caught up with Mearns manager Steven Robertson and Celtic manager Drew Smith to find out about their journeys to the final, their previous meetings and their seasons so far.
Here’s what they had to say:
Mearns Youth FC
Formed in 2015, Mearns YFC are the newest members in the DDYFA, with 2017/18 the first time they have competed at 11-a-side football. Manager Steven Robertson explains how the club came to be.
“Whilst the majority of our 2005 squad have been with the Club since the time of its formation, our aims and aspirations at the start of this season were not based on achieving a specific league position or sustaining a lengthy cup run.
“That said, if someone had predicted that our 2005’s would finish the roughly mid-table in the league and also reach a cup final in our first competitive 11-a-side season, we’d have gladly taken that in terms of a measure of success.”
Mearns road to the final saw them hit the goal trail against ACSC in the quarter finals, before edging out Dundee Thistle by three goals to one in the semi-final. Manager Robertson was delighted with how his side navigated the two hotly contested ties.
“Whilst our Quarter Final match against ACSC saw things all square at 3-3 at half-time, we started the second half in much more confident mood, with some good passing play and well taken goals ensuring that we ran out comfortable winners, with the boys fully deserving of their final 10-3 victory.
“Dundee Thistle presented us with extremely difficult opposition, and despite our going a goal down mid-way through the first half, the boys put in a battling performance after the restart to produce the type of passing football we know they’re fully capable of, with a strong 3-1 victory having been secured at the final whistle.
“From front to back, every single one of the boys performed admirably during both fixtures, with the most pleasing aspect for ourselves as coaches being the commitment and desire demonstrated to secure these victories.”
Mearns have narrowly lost both their previous meetings with Celtic, but Robertson believes his side have shown enough in these matches that they can get their first win against the champions in the final.
“Our first encounter back in August saw us secure a comfortable 3-1 lead at half-time, only to switch off during the second half where we were second to the ball on a number of occasions, thereby passing the initiative and momentum to Celtic who eventually ran out 6-4 winners.
“Similarly, our most recent fixture saw us take a 2-0 lead mid-way into the first half, only to spurn several goal scoring opportunities and allow Celtic to get back into the game and secure a 4-2 victory.
“Having led both games previously, there’s little doubt that we can beat Celtic, with the growth in confidence and self-belief of the boys during the past six months.
“Our recent experiences in both the Scottish Cup and East Region Cup standing us in good stead as we head into the Cup Final in confident mood.”
Mearns currently occupy sixth spot in the P Gibson league, and Robertson is pleased with how his players have handled their first season at 11-a-side football.
He said, “Participating in a “C” league has provided the boys with an opportunity to develop at their own pace, without too much pressure and the burden of expectation which far too often can see grassroots football lose players to the game at a young age.
“In terms of the competitiveness of the P. Gibson League, the gap between the top and bottom teams is certainly not as wide as the league table indicates, with several games being much closer than the final score line would suggest
“The boys have adapted well after a slow start to the season, with their confidence and self-belief having undoubtedly increased week on week as they participate in more games and become progressively more comfortable with the individual roles which they’re being asked to undertake.
“That said, the most important aspect, however, is that they’re really enjoying their football and, as a team, are continually developing their skills and positioning, as well as critical thinking.”
Ahead of their big day, Robertson had this final message for his players, “It’s not about talent. It’s about heart, passion and desire. It’s about who can go out there and play the hardest. They’re not going to give you anything in this game. You’ve got to go out there and take it. You become what you believe. Today we are winners!”
Having sealed the P Gibson League title with a 4-1 win over Dundee SC in their last outing, Celtic Boys will be looking to complete a domestic double by clinching the trophy that commemorates their club’s history.
Manager Drew Smith is hopeful that his players can lift the silverware on Sunday. He said, “Obviously with it being our own cup, to be the first winners would be a massive achievement and a big confidence booster for the players.”
The road to the final saw Celtic take on two of the sides that at points of the season had pushed them in the title race, Dundee West Royals and Monifieth Athletic.
While these sides may have been their challengers in the league, Celtic were in top form with a 9-3 win over Dundee West followed up by a 9-1 win over Monifieth in the semi to book their spot in the final.
Manager Smith said, “The wins over both Dundee West and Monifieth were satisfying as we thought at the start of the season they would be challenging for honours along with a couple of other teams in the league.”
Celtic have scored 65 goals in their 11 league matches, and Smith is delighted with the progress his side have made over the course of the season, “For our first season at 11-a-side we found ourselves in the P. Gibson league which was a bit of a surprise as we thought with 24 teams there would be two leagues of 12.
“It has been a good learning curve for us as we were pushed hard by Dundee West and Dundee SC as our aims were pretty high at the start of the season.”
As for Sunday’s opponents Mearns, Celtic have been on the right side of the result in both their previous meetings, a 6-4 win in the Diamond Jubilee Cup group stage in August, and a 4-2 win when the sides met in the league in November.
Despite their 100% record, Smith is taking nothing for granted when the sides meet for a third time. He said, “Both games against Mearns have been close as they are a well organised team, so we will have to be at our best in the final.”
Ones to Watch
James Barclay – A no-nonsense defender, Barclay’s strength in the tackle have made him a key part of a Celtic backline that has conceded just 17 goals in the league.
Jamie Murray – Murray has been a key cog in Celtic’s midfield this season and will be looking to drive his team to victory in the final.
Josh McGuire – Celtic have had no problem in front of goal this year, and striker McGuire has been in fine form with over 20 goals for the P Gibson League champions.
Smith had this message for his side ahead of their big day, “Play the game not the occasion, play to your potential and most of all enjoy the day.”
North End Park, Dundee DD3 8HU
Kick Off: 12.00
Prices: Adults: £3.00 OAP/Child: £1.00