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Sunday 29th May 2016 ko 16.05

Scottish Junior Cup Final

BEITH JUNIORS 1 (Christie 61)

POLLOK 1 (R. Winters 72)

No extra time, Beith won 4-3 on penalties

Att 4,877 at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (Kilmarnock FC)

Entry £10

Programme £3

Odd isn’t it? A football match that coincides with virtually nothing, is televised and south of Scotland you’d have had to know what you were looking for to find out about it. There’s really no good reason for it, do the rest of the UK really mistake Junior for Juvenile, surely nearly 5,000 wouldn’t turn out for a youth game? The truth of the matter is that the Scots’ Junior scene is vibrant and for a few reasons its main cup competition is especially gripping.

For a start, do consider the make-up of the Junior game. There’s the North, West and East Regions, each with their own leagues and cup competitions. The only time clubs in differing regions meet each other is in the Junior Cup, although this final was contested by two clubs in the top flight of the West Region, the Superleague Premier Division.

Now look at the way the game runs itself. The regional system limits the cost of travel. There’s more local derbies, and yes I’d love to be at Cumnock vs Auchinleck, the Juniors seem to have adapted their offering to suit what they have rather than to fit in with any outside idea.

However there is a parallel universe. The playoffs between the Lowland, Highland and Scottish Leagues have this season seen the first clubs change division. Edinburgh City replaced homeless moribund East Stirlingshire to, at least in their eyes, regain the league place stolen from them in 1995. The implication is clear, progression in the Senior ranks is possible, if rather convoluted. So far no Junior club has even suggested that they’d want to move across, preferring to limit their contact to the 4 spots in the (Senior) Scottish FA cup awarded to the 3 regional champions and the Scottish Junior Cup winners.

It would be oh-so easy to reject one side of these parallel existances but each has their own merits, and the gentle irony of this final being held at a Senior Ground couldn’t be lost on the neutral. But the David and Goliath nature of the tie has been seen so many times across so many sports.

This was Beith’s first final, but Pollok‘s sixth, with three wins, and the difference was clear in how the fans approached their days. Beith paraded through Kilmarnock en route to the ground, while Pollok (shamefully misspelled on the teamsheet and signage) seemed far more used to the occasion.

The odd kick-off time was to show the game on BBC Alba. They share their broadcast frequency and so can’t broadcast until 4pm, so the kick-off time reflected that. The lack of extra time was a change for this year, again dictated by television.

But whatever format you choose, finals are about emotion. Its written all over fans, officials and players. There’s so much to gain and lose, and as a result the game took time to spark. Beith took the lead slightly against the run of play, but were pegged back when substitute Robbie Winters pounced on a rebound to score with his first touch!

So penalties is was, and Beith prevailed despite going behind in the shootout early on, and Richard Burke’s spot kick started wild celebrations amongst the Ayrshire contingent. I inwardly stood back and watched the emotions, both on winners and losers. For without those emotions sport would be nothing.