A 17-year-old Lewis footballer, who turned professional less than three months ago, fulfilled a childhood dream by lifting the Scottish women’s league cup for Celtic in front of a record crowd at Firhill in Glasgow last weekend.
Rachael Johnstone, who hails from Balallan, pulled off a vital save en route to keeping a clean sheet as the hoops tamed the football juggernaut that is Glasgow City 1-0 to clinch the Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup in front of 3,645 supporters – a new record for a women’s domestic cup final in Scotland.
Speaking to the Free Press after the match, Rachael said: “I am absolutely buzzing, it was an incredible day, and it hasn’t fully kicked in yet.
“It is definitely the biggest game I have ever played in, and is a big accomplishment, especially after the amount of travelling and everything else I have had to do to get to this stage.
“It has all paid off and has definitely been worth it.”
She added: “I have been dreaming about lifting a trophy in a Celtic jersey since I was a little girl, and the fact that I have accomplished that at 17 years old is massive for me.
“I was nervous before the game, but I didn’t want to show that to my back three. I wanted to be confident, and as soon as the whistle went those nerves were gone – I was fully focused on the match.”
Commenting on her crucial save as Glasgow City threatened to equalise, she said: “I knew that Chinchilla was free at the back post, but I saw that our fullback didn’t get there in time, so I had to get something on the ball. I just lunged at it, and I managed to get it away.
“I didn’t realise how big the save was until I watched it back and the girls spoke to me afterwards. It could have been the equaliser, so it was really important.”
The cup success marks a new high for Rachael in what has been a meteoric rise for the young keeper, as her mum Rhona explained.
“She signed for Celtic on her 15th birthday. Initially, it was every couple of weeks we were travelling down, but then for about a year we were going down to Glasgow every weekend after she finished school on a Friday,” she told the Free Press.
“She would train on Fridays and Saturdays, and have a game on a Sunday. She would then fly back home on the first flight on a Monday morning and go back into school.
“She has put an awful lot of effort into it all herself.”
Rhona added: “Even when she was doing her highers, she would sit on the ferry revising for her exams – it was incredible that she was able to retain that focus for her academic studies as well putting all that effort into her football.
“It is testament to her ethos; as she is such a hard worker. She has got to where she is by being very driven and dedicated.”
Rhona undertook what turned out to be an eventful and epic journey so she could share Rachael’s special moment with her.
She said: “I left it too late to book a flight, so I ended up getting the ferry from Tarbert to Uig just after midday on Saturday.
“I then drove down to Glasgow and got there about quarter to eight – it was a nine and half hour journey on the way down – I got a puncture so that added a bit onto the trip as well.
“After the final I left at about 7pm and got to Ullapool at quarter past midnight. The ferry was delayed because of the weather, so we arrived in Stornoway at 7.30 am and I got home at 8.
“I just had time for a quick shower and change and then went off to work.”
Paying tribute to her mum and dad’s support, Rachael said: “It meant a lot that she was in the stands.
“I was pointing to her when we were walking out before the match, and I went straight over to her after we had won.
“It means the world for her to be there, so I am very grateful that she was there.”
She added: “The fact that I have made her proud makes me the happiest person ever.
“I just want to give back to my parents because they have done so much, and I think all of that is slowly paying off.
“My mum was in a flood of tears after the games, so I think she was pretty happy.”
Article by Adam Gordon.