The qualifying tournaments for this season’s Senior Aspire Cup have produced thrilling matches and high-quality hockey. After the events at Peffermill and Dalnacraig, the following teams have qualified for the Cup Finals on 15 March 2024:
Girls: Marr College v McLaren High School
Boys: High School of Dundee v Trinity Academy
The first tournament on Friday 3 November attracted 12 teams (6 girls and 6 boys) to Peffermill in Edinburgh. They each played in pools of three teams, with play-offs and finals.
Marr College topped their Pool with wins over Queen Victoria School (2-0) and Balerno High School (3-0). Queen Victoria’s excellent 3-1 win against Balerno gave them 2nd spot.
Dingwall Academy showed no signs of weariness after their 6am start, as they opened with a 4-0 win against Linlithgow Academy. Then a hard-fought 1-0 win v Hawick HS gave them top spot in their Pool. Hawick and Linlithgow drew 1-1, with the Borderers being runners-up on goal difference.
In a thrilling, end-to-end girls’ final Marr College beat Dingwall 2-1 to claim their place in the Aspire Cup Final.
Both the play-offs finished all square and had to be settled on penalties. Hawick edged Queen Victoria to finish 3rd; and Balerno clinched 5th place over Linlithgow.
Peebles High School’s 1-0 win against Boroughmuir proved crucial as they topped their Pool after drawing 1-1 with Wellington. The Ayrshire side played some great hockey to be runners-up after a 0-0 draw with Boroughmuir.
Trinity Academy beat Earlston HS and Dingwall Academy to top their Pool. Earlston beat the Highland boys 1-0 in the other match.
The Trinity boys turned on the style in a 5-0 win against Peebles in the final, but the Borderers should be proud of their efforts. Wellington beat Earlston 4-3 on penalties to finish 3rd; and Dingwall and Boroughmuir shared a 1-1 draw.
The ‘North’ tournament, originally scheduled for 1 November at Glenalmond, had been cancelled due to the weather. Luckily, High School of Dundee stepped in to host the rearranged event at their Dalnacraig pitches on 15 November.
Four teams competed in this event after a couple of schools called off. They played each other in a round-robin before a play-off and final.
Aberdeen GS started strongly with two good wins against Perth Academy (2-0) and Cults Academy (1-0). McLaren High School did likewise, beating Cults 2-1 and Perth 5-0. McLaren’s 1-0 win v Aberdeen was immaterial as both had already qualified for the final.
Both teams produced an exciting final, cheered on by their boys’ teams, and it was McLaren High School who beat Aberdeen 3-0. The Callander girls now have a date with Marr College in the final in March.
Cults finished third with a 4-0 win against a battling Perth Academy team, after a 3-1 result in the Pool stage.
The eight boys’ teams played in two pools of four teams each; and it turned out to be a thrilling competition.
In Pool A, High School of Dundee (HSoD) and Perth Academy both won their opening matches before drawing 1-1 in one of the best games of the tournament. That meant both teams had to ‘go for goals’ in the final Pool matches. HSoD hit five against Glasgow Academy, meaning Perth’s 1-0 win against Morrison’s Academy wasn’t quite enough as they finished one behind on goal difference.
The inexperienced Morrison’s boys from Crieff exceeded their expectations with three superb performances, only conceding three goals in as many matches, including a 0-0 draw with The Glasgow Academy.
Grove Academy won Pool B in style, hitting 14 goals without reply. High School of Glasgow beat Aberdeen GS 2-1 and McLaren HS 2-0 to finish runners-up. And Aberdeen’s 1-0 against McLaren gave them 3rd spot.
The all-Dundee final was a cracker, with both teams giving it everything. Grove looked like they were heading for victory as they lead 2-1 with a few minutes to go, but a superb late equaliser from the HSoD captain took it to running penalties. And it was the High School of Dundee who held their nerve in a 2-1 win to earn the chance to retain the cup against Trinity Academy at finals day in March.
Perth Academy were third after a 1-0 win against High School of Glasgow to round off a great day’s hockey.