Selkirk find it tough going in Youth Cup final

Selkirk's dejected players leave the pitch following a hard fought Scottish Youth Cup clash against Stirling County Colts. Photograph: Grant Kinghorn.
Selkirk's dejected players leave the pitch following a hard fought Scottish Youth Cup clash against Stirling County Colts. Photograph: Grant Kinghorn.

Stirling County 60

Selkirk Youth Club 12

RBS UNDER-18 YOUTH CUP FINAL

ALAN LORIMER reports from Murrayfield

IT WAS always going to be mission impossible for Selkirk YC in the RBS under-18 Youth Cup final at Murrayfield in a repeat of last year’s showcase match.

In the event, the scoreline confirmed the massive odds stacked against the young Souters in trying to stay with the powerful Stirling side.

But let’s be clear what this match, or as some have suggested, a mis-match, was all about. It was a local team facing what many dub a ‘super’ club that dominates a large region containing several private schools, and which critics accuse of hoovering up talent from smaller clubs in the area.

“The Selkirk boys are coming from a relatively small town, playing what is effectively a rep side,” said Selkirk’s former Scotland and Lions number 8, Iain Paxton.

He added: “It was always going to be very difficult for the boys. But they stuck to their task and there’s a number of players there who will be eligible for next season’s competition and I think we can look forward to another successful run.”

The other side of the Stirling coin is an enviable excellence they have worked hard to achieve.

Stirling are to be admired for their youth structure and the success that it has brought over the years. Success has become a magnet for aspiring players and that, in part, explains why Stirling have a consistent quality in their age grade teams.

Selkirk YC faced a County side that contained five age grade caps in the pack including two who have played at Scotland under-20 and under 20A levels.

Selkirk YC coach, Guy Blair was only too aware of Stirling’s awesome strength.

He said: “We knew that before we came here. My main concern is for the clubs round about Stirling that are losing their players from their team every season.

“It’s different here in Selkirk. Our guys go to school together, they train together, and they go to the gym together.

“I really feel for our players. We thought we could give Stirling a run, but up against their players – some could give the Selkirk first team a run for their money – it was a big ask.

“They’re an international team but our boys did well against them. I’m very proud of them.”

Blair’s side’s refusal to stop competing earned the young Souters plaudits at Murrayfield.

But, against County’s ‘international’ pack which turned on the power at will, Youth Club were on the back foot for much of the game.

As a consequence, Selkirk had to make a little possession go a long way, but in stand-off Callum McEwan, voted the RBS man-of-the-match, they had a player capable of doing just that. The quick-footed youngster conjured two tries, one converted by Josh Welsh, to help keep the Borderers in the game.

“Callum’s a very exciting player. I think that Graham Shiel should come and have a look at him for the sevens squad.

“He’s just got that x-factor that you can’t coach. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot about him in the future,” suggested Blair.

Selkirk attacks were rare moments in a game that seemed at times a training run for County and a chance to show off their skills.

Youth Club, however, can take credit for their set-piece work, their tireless tackling and their willingness to move the ball when possible.

But in the end, the power of Stirling’s pack and the massive amount of possession they enjoyed was turned into scores that by the end of the match totalled 10 tries.

Stirling’s formula is being replicated at Glasgow Hawks, a side drawn from a huge catchment area, and which had defeated Jed Thistle decisively in the semi-final, took the Under-16 title.

Does this then point to success being about the creation of ‘super’ teams?

That is a question that might now be pondered in the Borders.

Stirling County: M. Hall; B. Clark, A. Russell, A. Tunaley, S. Gillies; J. Urquhart, K. Wood; J. Bhatti, J. Dunn, R. Murray, G. Anderson, J. Fuentes, R. Leishman, S. MacDonald, C. Arnold. Subs: B. Dineen, S. Govan, A. Leishman, A. Stewart, J. Ortlepp, C. Mundell, S. Sneddon.

Selkirk YC: T. Duncan; J. Elliot, L. MacLennan, J. Welsh, S. Hendry; C. McEwan, T. Penman; C. Turnbull, R. Purves, F. McKerracher, J. Lunt, A. Nichol, J. Haughley, S. McClymont, C. Grieve. Subs: S. McKinnon, B. Riddell, C. Mordue, J. Houston, J. Elliot, K. Stillie, F. Watt.