Home Community and neighbourhoods Last minute equalisers, penalty shoot outs and spectacular goals – Knowsley schoolgirls serve up a classic for former Lionesses at the Sylvia Gore Cup
A group of school children stand with former England Women's footballers

Last minute equalisers, penalty shoot outs and spectacular goals – Knowsley schoolgirls serve up a classic for former Lionesses at the Sylvia Gore Cup

by Guy Murphy

This year’s Sylvia Gore Cup came to a dramatic finale with a nail-biting penalty shoot-out between St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Primary from Huyton and St Andrew the Apostle Primary from Halewood, watched on by three former Lionesses, and members of Sylvia Gore’s family.

Around 90 schoolgirls from across Knowsley came together to compete in the grand final of the Sylvia Gore Schoolgirls’ Cup at the Liverpool Football Club AXA Training Centre in Kirkby on Thursday 23 May.

Over the course of the day the schoolgirls showed that Knowsley is bursting with talent, treating those watching on to some high-quality football.

In the final, St Margaret Mary’s battled back from a two nil deficit to take the game to a penalty shoot-out. It had looked like St Andrews were set to take the trophy home in normal time, having dominated the opening exchanges. The game looked done and dusted when St Margaret Mary’s hit the inside of the post in the dying minutes. However, the girls grabbed a deserved equaliser with the last kick of the game.

A nervy penalty shoot-out brought the competition to a close with St Andrews dusting themselves off and dispatching their spot kicks with confidence.

This year’s competition final saw some very special guests take part in the event. Three members of England’s very first women’s team (of which Sylvia was a part) as well as the former secretary of the Women’s FA, Pat Gregory attended on the day.

Sue Whyatt, Pat Davies and Janet Clark were all part of the very first England Women’s National team who made history on 18 November 1972. They were on hand to present medals to the final four qualifying teams and present the shield to the overall winners, St Andrew the Apostle.

The day began with a Q&A session, chaired by Sylvia’s cousin Steve Gore in which the schoolgirls had the opportunity to ask the ‘Ladies of ‘72’ questions about their personal experiences of playing the sport.

Up until 1971 women were banned from playing football by the Football Association and at that time any coaches or referees, accredited by the FA, could face suspension if they were seen to be assisting women in playing the game.

The first official women’s international match was played in icy conditions which gave way to heavy snow. Many of the men’s games were cancelled that day as the weather was too bad to play. Despite this the England and Scotland women’s teams played on, and England won their first match 3-2, with the inaugural goal of the game scored by Prescot’s own Sylvia Gore.

In addition to the schoolgirls cup competition, Sylvia’s legacy is remembered in a special display at Prescot Museum, which showcases her England shirt, cap and MBE medal along with archival photographs and other memorabilia. You can visit the Prescot Museum at Prescot shopping centre Monday-Friday, 10am – 5pm and Saturday 10am – 1pm.

Cllr Shelley Powell, Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods said: The second Sylvia Gore cup was a resounding success and such a fitting way to honour the memory and legacy of Sylvia. Her story as a player is hugely inspiring but she also went on to dedicate her life to the advancement of women in football. The teams today showed amazing talent, hard work and dedication and I congratulate them all for reaching this stage of the competition. It was an amazing day, made all the more special by the presence of the ‘Ladies of ‘72’.

David Sweeney of the Knowsley School Sports Partnership said: “We’re seeing more girls getting involved in playing football and the standard just gets better and better every year. The teams played their hearts out and should all be very proud of themselves. Congratulations to the winners, St. Andrews and the runners up St Margaret Mary’s. They had us all on the edge of our seats in the final! Special thanks to LFC Academy for hosting this year’s event. It was incredibly special for the girls to play at such a fantastic facility.”

Sue Whyatt, former England goalkeeper said: “I think we might have enjoyed today more than the kids! They asked us such fantastic questions and took a real interest in the history of women’s football. The matches were superb, and we were all so impressed by the high standard of the teams. I know Sylvia would have been so proud that all of this is being done in her name.”

Sylvia Gore Cup 2024

About the Sylvia Gore Cup

Sylvia Gore Cup was launched in 2022 as part of Knowsley’s year as the Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture.  The tournament, involving hundreds of Knowsley schoolgirls, was named in honour of local legend Sylvia who pioneered women’s football and spent her life championing the game and the women and girls who wanted to play it.

The competition, launched by Knowsley Council with the blessing and support of Sylvia’s family has been organised by the Knowsley School Sports Partnership.

Run across two separate leagues (The North League with games played at Kirkby Leisure Centre and The South League with games played at Halewood Leisure Centre) the top 10 teams were invited to take part in this special event today which it is hoped will help to inspire even more girls to take up the beautiful game.