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A heroes return for Kirkley girls

PUBLISHED: 12:39 02 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:17 05 July 2010

THEY'VE been treated like celebrities, have played on a pitch that is set to host the UEFA Cup Final and put Lowestoft well and truly on the map.

But it was back to the classroom for the triumphant teenage girls from Kirkley High School this week after they lifted the ESFA U16 National Schools' Cup Final, sponsored by the Royal Air Force, on Monday.

THEY'VE been treated like celebrities, have played on a pitch that is set to host the UEFA Cup Final and put Lowestoft well and truly on the map.

But it was back to the classroom for the triumphant teenage girls from Kirkley High School this week after they lifted the ESFA U16 National Schools' Cup Final, sponsored by the Royal Air Force, on Monday.

A stunning 3-2 win over the Shropshire-based Bridgnorth Endowed School sealed an historic first-ever win for the north Suffolk school - and this week there were fitting tributes paid to the girls' success.

With “We are the champions” blaring out, a special assembly was held on Tuesday at the school for 1,000 pupils, with Lowestoft mayor Sally Spore in attendance.

The RAF Schools' Cup final at Manchester City Stadium, playing on turf worth over one million pounds, saw Kirkley take the lead in the 16th minute with a goal from Louise Sturman. But Bridgnorth battled through the rain to equalise in the 32nd minute with a goal from Emma Askins.

Skipper Paige Shorten then took centre stage for the Kirkley girls with a stunning 25-yard free kick that was curled into the top corner in the 50th minute.

But Bridgnorth equalised again almost straight away as Kirkley relaxed and were punished. However the side rallied and with only minutes to go, Shorten raced through from midfield - beating three players on a run that was almost Elano-esque - before being halted by a late challenge from Bridgnorth goalkeeper, Chelsea Maiklem.

The Shropshire shot-stopper was shown the red card for this mis-timed tackle - but Paige Shorten got up to score with ease against a replacement goalkeeper - leading to jubilant scenes as the final whistle shrilled soon after.

Shorten fittingly lifted the cup to rapturous applause and then collected the player of the match trophy for a display that was likely to have impressed the watching scouts.

“It was such a great day,” PE teacher and coach Pete Seadon said. “We were in the away dressing room and all the girls were excited that players such as Ronaldo had been there.

“I felt we were the better team on the day and deserved the win - it was a really good battle,” he added.

Revealing their “pride” fellow coach Louise Greenacre said: “To bring this cup back to Lowestoft the girls have played 10 games, scored 42 goals, travelled 1,468 miles for matches - the equivalent of going to Norwich and back 58 times - and we gave up our Easter holidays and an awful lot of time to earn this success.

“But these girls are special group of players - for three years running they have been the Waveney League (inter-schools) champions and also Suffolk county champions - and all that work paid dividends on Monday as they lifted the cup.

“These girls are a real credit to themselves, their families and the school itself.”

Deputy headteacher at the school in Kirkley Run, John Shanahan, told The Journal: “The girls were all outstanding and their excitement when the final whistle went was fantastic.

Three coach-loads of fans - including staff, school-mates and parents - all cheered them onto glory as around 250 fans turned out for the showcase final.

More than 50,000 students compete in the prestigious RAF Schools' Cup each year - and the Lowestoft High school have been crowned champions for the first-ever time.

The triumphant team was: Abi Battisto, Ellen Catchpole, Grace Lawrance, Sheree Greenway, Nicole Richardson, Paige Shorten (capt), Rio Darlaston, Jade Spooner, Carly Ogogo, Sophie Allport, Louise Sturman. Subs (all used): Jodie Ellis, Lauren Jones, Melissa Brady, Becky White.

“It was really great to win - in what was a fantastic atmosphere,” Nicole Richardson said. “We had the better chances, played the better football and showed everyone why we were there,” Grace Lawrence said. “Everyone worked hard and I just think we deserved the win,” Lauren Jones added. Tough-tackler Sheree Greenway said: “It was a really good game.”

“It was an amazing feeling scoring at the City of Manchester Stadium,” Louise Sturman - who was delighted to discover she was sitting in the same dressing room as Cristiano Ronaldo had been - said. And delighted skipper Paige Shorten added: “The day was awesome - and I'd like to praise the side for their efforts.”

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