1995 - 2000
The commitment and spirit of Aquinas coaches and players had not been dimmed by the relative lack of success of the previous five years. This Aquinas spirit was to see the club bouncing back in style in 1995/1996. Ed Vernon’s Under 12s won the SBBL league title. This team also reached the final of the Holden Cup, but unfortunately, were beaten on the day.
In the following year, a one-off additional cup competition at Under 15, saw Aquinas reach the final, only to be beaten by St.Andrew’s. 1997/1998 saw our Under 12s, under Paddy McCrudden and Denis Quinn challenge for the league, unfortunately finishing second. Similarly, the Under 14s and Under 15s finished second in the league, with the former also reaching the cup final.
1997/1998 also saw the first trip by Aquinas teams to Blackpool. The Blackpool tournament operated at three levels and brought teams together from all over Great Britain and Ireland. Des Brennan, assisted by Noel Singleton and Sean Kieron, brought his Under 15s over. Tony O’Neill’s and Pat O’Hagan’s Under 11s also made the trip.
Although no silverware was won, Aquinas set down a marker that would be redeemed, not once but twice in the five years to follow. The Under 15s stormed their way to the final of the cup. The game, against the poetically named Scottish team, the Hill of Beath, finished 0-0 after full time. The final went to extra time, in which, unfortunately, Aquinas fell a goal behind. Despite a gallant effort by the first Aquinas team to travel abroad, the equaliser could not be found and the team returned empty handed.
How long did it take to redeem the marker that Des’ team had laid down? One year. In 1998/1999 our Under 14s, under Kieran Murphy and Stevie Martin made the trip to Blackpool. The team conceded only one goal in the competition and returned with the Blackpool Plate. The winning Blackpool squad was: Eoin Quinn, James McCabe, Jerry Lee, Simon Carberry, Kevin Isaac, David Hennessy, Kieron McKinley, Andrew Magill, Andrew Kelly, Fionntan O’Hagan, Neil McGranaghan, Gavin Lunney, Kieran McCartney, Chris McAnaney, Lawrence Kendal and Timothy Collins.
Similarly, the Under 10s of Noel Murphy and Paul Cummings thrilled the club throughout the year with a spirited challenge for the league. Their campaign continued to the last, with the team only falling at the last hurdle to finish second to St. Andrew’s.
The following year, 1999/2000 Kieran and Stevie’s team, now Under 15s, challenged for the league. Aquinas were tied with Grosvenor at the top when all the matches were played. Consequently, the league went to a play-off, which finished 1-1. In line with the league’s rules, a second play-off was arranged. Unforunately, Aquinas lost this one 2-1, and had to make do with second place, yet again.
The nineties ended with only one new league trophy in the bag and one piece of Blackpool silverware. It was our most barren decade yet in terms of trophies, and yet the club entered the new millennium, and its fourth decade, with greater grounds for confidence and hope than at any time since the closing of the seventies. This new feeling of confidence was also reflected at minisoccer, where the club was now turning out and training between six and eight teams each year. The only limiting factor then, as now, was a shortage of coaches, because there was certainly no shortage of potential players wanting to join at the youngest age groups.