Supersub Liam Gormley was the Hampden hero of heroes as Celtic clinched the SFA Youth Cup with an extra time win over Rangers.
Greig Spence’s 70th minute goal looked like deciding the tie but an 87th minute header from Rhys McCabe sent the game into extra time.
After a goal-less first period of extra-time Gormley replaced Patrik Twardzik and with his first involvement of the game curled a brilliant dipping shot over Rangers keeper Gary Inglis.
“I’m immensely proud of that group of players,” coach Stevie Frail admitted afterwards. “I always said that it would be a squad effort and that’s the way that it’s turned out.
“Last year the radio commentary gave me a lot of credit which wasn’t due for sending on Sean Fitzharris and he scored instantly as well.
“It was Chris (McCart) and Tommy’s (McIntyre) that deserve the credit for putting on Liam and it paid off brilliantly.
“He’s had to be patient to get his chance, he’s scored a few important goals for us this season and it’s great to see him get his reward.”
There wasn’t much to write home about from the first half but after the break Celtic started to exert themselves and push Rangers back deeper and deeper.
Playing towards the vociferous and animated Celtic support the hoops swarmed forward with full-backs Stephen O’Donnell and Keiran Brennan constantly on the overlap.
Brennan almost opened the scoring in the 56th minute but his shot coming in from the left slipped over the crossbar.
Patrik Twardzik was next to test the woodwork with a thunderous 30 yard effort with the rebound landing awkwardly for Spence who rushed his shot.
The former Alloa striker rarely wastes two chances and put Celtic in front with 19 minutes left to play. Collecting a diagonal pass from O’Donnell he shrugged aside Darren Cole to find a yard then struck his shot past Inglis into the net.
“It was probably as far out as he’s ever scored from!” Frail half joked. I’m not even sure if it hit the net but what a finish!
“Darren Cole is a good player, he shackled Greig well but he lost him and Greig slotted it away really well, that’s what strikers do.
“We were really disappointed that we didn’t hold on, Rangers showed a bit of resolve to come back. We thought that we’d rode that storm but we showed character to come back from an equaliser in a final at the national stadium.”
Celtic were worth their lead with the players continuing to swarm forward looking for the killer second goal.
Rangers didn’t look like equalising but with three minutes left to play McCabe got his head onto a cross from the left with the ball evading Feely’s despairing dive.
Celtic forced two corners before the end of normal time but referee John Beaton’s whistle signalled the end of 90 minutes and a well earned breather before extra-time.
Nine minutes into the first period of extra time O’Donnell cut in from the right but his curling shot was touched round the post by Inglis.
A penalty shoot out was drawing ever closer until Gormley picked the ball up wide left and started running at the Rangers defence.
Sensing a moment of glory he let rip with a brilliantly placed shot cum chip which sailed over Inglis into the Rangers net before he was mobbed by his team-mates celebrating with the ecstatic Celtic support.
There was a scare two minutes from time when Rangers put the ball in the net but the linesman had his flag up early to the relief of the Celtic players.
As the final whistle sounded Gormley was mobbed by his team-mates before Matty Hughes went up to lift the trophy then show it off to the celebrating Celtic support.
“Last year it was sweet winning the double but this year is far sweeter,” Frail admitted.
“The amount of games that they had to squeeze in away from home in three weeks was asking a lot, to end up with a double is great credit to everyone.
“There are so many people involved in putting a team on the park and I’m delighted that they’ve enjoyed a night of success.
“I’m very proud of this group of young kids who we’ve worked with day in day out. They must be sick of the sight of us because at times we have them in seven days a week but it’s for their benefit, to develop them as players.”
Celtic complete their league programme at home to Hearts on Saturday before taking a well deserved lap of honour at half-time during Sunday’s Celtic-Dundee United match.
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CELTIC: Feely; O’Donnell, Hughes, Toshney, Brennan; Bagshaw, Irvine, McGregor, F Twardzik; Spence (Atajic 82), P Twardzik (Gormley 107)
Subs: Thomson, Fraser, Feruz
RANGERS: Inglis, McAusland, McIntyre, Cole, Hegarty, Hunter, Fotheringham (Crawford 50), Dick, Hemmings, McCabe, Naismith
Subs: Drummond, Mitchell, Wiktorski, McNeil
SCORERS: Spence 71, Gormley 109