2003 - 2004
Aquinas has been busy both on and off the field this year. Off the field, the club has been organising its anniversary events. However, it has been on the field where Aquinas has really done its talking this year. The club has experienced unprecedented success in the league this year and, at the time of writing, several of our teams are still competing in the SBBL cup. Similarly, Aquinas teams have reached further stages of the NIBFA cup, a tournament open to clubs throughout Northern Ireland, than in the recent past.
Our youngest SBBL team, the Under 10s, started out this year as they intended to finish, demolishing all opposition with scores the likes of which most teams can only dream. The team had wrapped up the SBBL league title with ease. Only one team offered any serious challenge, but even they could not stop this particular Aquinas juggernaut. Its success, masterminded by its management team of Garry Cullen, Phil O’Neill, Jim Magee and the redoubtable Stevie Martin was hailed and celebrated not only by the club, but by broth-making cooks the world over. The league winning squad was: John Doherty, Conor Brown, Mark Salters, John Bailie, James Magee, Rory Finnegan, Garrett Cullen, Mattie McClean, Ben Leonard, Brendan Ferguson, Ryan Murray, Ronan McGrady, Conor O’Neill and Mark Cummings.
Indeed, the success story around our Under 10s does not stop with just the league. Although, disappointingly knocked out of the SBBL cup with an unlucky and unkind goal, the team has reached the final of the NIBFA cup, becoming the first Aquinas team in the club’s history to do so. The NIBFA cup is a tournament open to teams throughout Northern Ireland. For all intents and purposes, it is the Northern Ireland childrens’ football equivalent of the champion’s league. Consequently, the achievement should not be underrated, but should be given the importance and significance that it is due.
The hard work put in by Martin Stewart and Brian George over the last few years with their team, now at Under 13, and this year by Martin McNally as well, similarly bore fruit in 2003/2004. If their victory in the league was not quite as emphatic as that of the Under 10s, it was no less sweet. The league was clinched with a victory over their only rival, Windsor Youth, during Easter week. Like the Under 10s, this team has the potential to bring glory to itself and the club for the rest of its time with the club. The squad was: Marty McNally, Ben Sinnott, Darragh McCullough, Christopher McKenna, Daniel Kennedy, Michael Overell, Conor Platt, Ronan Platt, Daniel Ramsey, Rory O’Reilly, Davie Wallace, Stephen McAlear, Chris Mooney, Tommy O’Neill, Niall George, Matthew Kelly, Ciaran O’Hare, Craig Haughey, Ciaran Connolly, Aaron McCullough and David Loughran.
The first four years of the twenty-first century have been one of success for the club, and reward for the hard work and commitment of all associated with Aquinas. With two league trophies, a Blackpool trophy and the possibility of the ultimate prize in Northern Ireland children's football the NIBFA cup, only one match away, this decade represents the clubs best chance to recreate the glory days of the seventies.
Ultimately, as the club contemplates its first thirty-five years, it can have grounds for satisfaction. The great and the good declaim, and, of course, they are right, that its not all about the winning. However, the winning is important too, and any manager who has watched his team’s faces light up when the final whistle blows and a trophy is theirs knows this only too well. Consequently, Aquinas can be proud of its fifteen assorted pieces of silverware won over its three and a half decades and as the club gathers to celebrate and commemorate its achievements, it can enjoy the glory that come with winning