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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Alan Campbell

Celtic vs Glasgow City Scottish Cup final preview with chances of both teams assessed

Celtic vs Glasgow City Scottish Cup final preview with chances of both teams assessed

TODAY'S Scottish Cup final outcome is hard to call, but Celtic will be hoping December 31 has arrived early. If they beat holders Glasgow City, whose successes for the last 18 years have been relentless, it will out with the old and in with the new.

There will be no complaints if this afternoon's game matches the quality of the previous final, which was also held at Tynecastle, in November, 2019. City beat Hibernian 4-3 at the end of a thrilling game in which the lead changed hands three times – with Clare Shine's superb late winner capping a memorable occasion.

Shine, who has just signed a contract extension, is one of only three City starters from the 2019 final who are available today. The others are newly married goalkeeper Lee Alexander and stand-in captain Hayley Lauder.

The usual armband wearer, Jo Love, is still on the premises but recovering from an ACL rupture. Former skipper Leanne Ross has joined the coaching staff. Rachel McLauchlan, Nicola Docherty, Sam Kerr and Kirsty Howat are now at Rangers, Leanne Crichton at Motherwell, while Eilish McSorley has also departed.

Republic of Ireland internationalist Shine was the only non-Scottish player on either side in the 2019 game, but it will be very different this afternoon. When Celtic beat City 1-0 in December's League Cup final at Firhill, only five of the twenty outfield starters were Scottish.

Despite the narrow margin of victory, with Caitlin Hayes getting the goal, Celtic were manifestly the better side. Inexplicably, given all their achievements, City barely turned up and young Celtic goalkeeper Rachael Johnstone had a largely untroubled 90 minutes.

As Lauder pointed out in midweek: “We didn't lay a finger on Celtic that day, which was the biggest disappointment.”

Since then City have beaten today's opponents twice in the league, both at Petershill Park, but Celtic manager Fran Alonso believes the wider grass pitch at Tynecastle will play to his players' strengths. His side have been this season's undoubted cup specialists, knocking Rangers out of both in addition to the League Cup final win over City.

For striker Charlie Wellings it will be an opportunity to bag goals in both the Scottish and FA Cup finals. She did so for Birmingham City in the English showpiece at Wembley in 2017 after coming on as a substitute, but it wasn't enough to prevent a 4-1 loss to Manchester City.

“She has been outstanding this season – 39 goals in 32 games says everything,” Alonso pointed out. “It would be amazing if she finished the season with a goal in the Scottish Cup final and we got the win – but the main thing is the win.”

The most obvious potential match winners for City are Lauder and Priscila Chinchilla, but head coach Eileen Gleeson is also motivated to erase the memory of December's tame defeat. Under her predecessor Scott Booth, City lost a number of cup games to Hibs, but never in the manner of the Firhill capitulation.

Gleeson, who has won several trophies in Ireland, said: “I was only in for two weeks before the League Cup final, so my understanding of the team and the players is very different now.

“Even for me making substitutions I wasn't fully aware of the players' capabilities. That will work better this time.”

The game at Firhill attracted a record crowd for a domestic cup final of 3645, but whether the two Glasgow teams playing in Edinburgh will affect today's attendance remains to be seen – especially given ScotRail's reduced services. SWF chief executive Aileen Campbell said during the week it was too early to predict.

Celtic are chasing only their third women's trophy, while City have already won 30. If the holders don't win today, it will their first barren season since 2003.

AS voted for at the inaugural annual general meeting at Hampden on Wednesday, Chris Duffy (Celtic), Amy McDonald (Rangers). Zola McGoldrick (Boroughmuir Thistle), Andrew McKinlay (Hearts) and Laura Montgomery (Glasgow City) will be the club representatives on the new SWPL board.

That three of the five are women is an obvious plus, and especially given the glaring lack of diversity at nearly all levels of Scottish football. However, there will eventually be nine members of the historic first board.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster will be his organisation's representative, and still to be appointed are a chair, a non-executive director and the managing director.

I'm told interviews for the latter role are already underway, with Fiona McIntyre, who is on secondment from the Scottish FA, continuing to hold the reins on an interim basis.

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