2006 - 2007

The new season began with some changes. Firstly, the new under 10 team and Denis Kelly and Damien Hughes’s under 11 team opted to play in the South Belfast Youth league, ending the club’s association with the Castlreagh League. The new season continued the expansion of the club into second teams, with a Red Star team being formed at under 12, under the eyes of Sean Montgomery and Peter Lynch. A third team at under 12, the Cranmore Colts was also formed later in September to cope with the numbers at Red Star training. Colm McCambridge, Richard Murphy and Raphael Emanuel managed it.

Jim Morrison, formerly the Tornado manager, left minisoccer to join Pascal and Martin with the under 10s. He will, then, stay behind in 2007/2008 with the younger members of the team to manage that year’s under 10s. Similarly, expansion continued to be seen at minsoccer with the creation of a sixth team, the Arrows, under Aquinas legend, Kieran Murphy, ably assisted by Marc Murphy. Other new managers at minisoccer were Richard Best, teaming up with Colm Keenan at the Grasshoppers and Frank Fleming, replacing Fra McCann, at the Rams.

On the down side, it proved not possible to put together an under 18 team this year. In addition, two experienced managers, Michael Brown and Bruce Kelly stepped down early in the season from the under 12s, to be replaced by Brendan Rainey and Paul McGuigan. There was also change at the under 14s. Phil O’Neill bowed out of the team at Christmas for personal reasons, and the team itself, following the fall out from last year’s cup final against Linfield, left the South Belfast league to try its luck in Down and Connor.

And so it all began again! The mini-soccer tournament continued to be run in-house at the YMCA. Six teams played a sixteen week tournament of six to eight games each week. Colm Keenan and his redoubtable, if flexible, time piece kept it all on track. Mini-soccer training shifted to the new third generation synthetic pitch at the PEC. The mini-soccer year was rounded off in May with a trip to Armagh City FC for a tournament.

The under 10s started their first league campaign with one trophy already in the bag. They had taken part in the Crumlin Invitational Tournament before the start of the season and came away with the cup. Not a bad start to their league life, really. In the league itself, they got off to a slightly slower start, but made up with a concerted burst for most of the season. However, a couple of defeats cost dear and third place was best that could be achieved in the league. The team also went out of the South Belfast cup, but went all the way to the final of the Glen O’Hare cup.

The final was played at Hydebank against SOPYC. A fairly tight affair of ebb and flow with exciting end to end football, it was decided by a goal of the highest quality and individuality. The ever efficient Peter Webb, playing at left back, picked the ball up in his defensive area and ran with it…. And ran with it …. And ran with it, beating off all challengers. He sprinted into the SOPYC box and buried the ball in the back of their net. It remained a tight tense affair after that and the ever packed Aquinas touchline was glad to hear the final whistle. The cup winning squad was: David Smyth, Dominic Mooney, Conor King, Dermot McMenemin, Luke McKenna, Peter Webb, Chris Kelly
Eddie Gildea, Kevin Ballentine, Michael Cummings (c),Neil O'Reilly, Jake Morrison, Dylan Mangan, Rory Smyth, Peter McElroy and Ryan McGuigan

2006/2007 proved to be a momentous year for the mighty midgets at under 11, playing 45 matches in all. The league was tightly contested by Aquinas and Dungoyne. As the latter part of it approached Aquinas pulled in front, needing only a point from the return match with Dungoyne, their last match, and to win our two remaining fixtures to tie up the league. In the midst of a busy fixtures logjam, which saw us overcoming SOPYC, then in third place, we went down 3 – 1 to Dungoyne at Ormeau. This meant we had to win our two remaining matches, against Windsor and Cliftonville to force a league play off.

Windsor gave us a hard time and we only managed to overcome them 
1 – 0 in a tense and nervous game. After a break for Easter, the mighty midgets roared back with a convincing 5 – 1 thrashing of Cliftonville at Boucher. This meant the unfortunate loss to Dungoyne had been neutralised. Both teams were level on points, the league would be decided by a playoff at Cherryvale.

The game started with Aquinas riding their luck. For the first half we did not really ever get into gear, had some very lucky escapes and were probably fortunate to go into the break only 1 – 0 down. Whatever Denis and Damien said at half time must have done the trick and an entirely different team came out to start the second half.

We drew level with a finely taken header form a Matt Carson corner kick. Matt Carson went one better with his next kicking duty, sending a twenty five yard free kick into the top of the net, giving the hapless goal keeper no chance at all. As the Aquinas touchline began to scent victory, the match was put to bed emphatically by a superb ball swept rightwards to Peter Morgan at the edge of the box. Continuing his run he lobbed it magnificently past the goal keeper. 3 – 1, and the party was in full flow on a, typically, packed Aquinas touchline. The league was won.

Almost immediately attention turned to the NIBFA final. The elevens had memorably breezed past Rosario at the plush Billy Neill stadium, dispatching them 2 – 0 to reach the final, the club’s fourth in four years, a record of which we can be proud. The final would take place on Saturday 12 May at the Riada Centre in Ballymoney against SOPYC.

The day started in party mood with two buses and a fleet of cars making their way up the motorway to Ballymoney, even it the team bus did go via Toomebridge!! Unfortunately, the party mood did not last long once the referee’s first whistle had blown. With two minutes on the clock a dodgy free kick was converted. Two more before half time and we had a hill to climb. Just before half time, we clawed at a life line. Another perfect Carson corner saw an unmarked Matt Hughes rise like a salmon at the far post to send the ball straight into the net. 3 – 1 at the break.

Once again the half time team talk must have been good, because we started the second half much the brighter team and took the game to SOPYC as we hadn’t at all in the first half. It looked as is a Liverpool style fight back might be on when Peter Morgan, this time from the left of the area made no mistake sending the ball to the back of the net. The referee, inexplicably, disallowed it citing off side, despite the fact that the lines man had not flagged it so and a SOPYC player was clearly visible on their line. I have a view, but this is not the place!! We will never know if there might have been a come back, we weren’t allowed the option. Another goal from SOPYC finished off a fairly stale game for us and the bus journey back was a quieter affair.

The last match of a 45 game season was played at Cherryvale. The cup final was, in effect a repeat of the league title decider, Aquinas once again lining out against nearest rivals, Dungoyne. The final started with aquinas in sparkling form. Two fist half goals from Matt Hughes and one in between from Peter Morgan left the game virtually over by half time. And yet!

Dungoyne were given the softest of free kicks at the start of the second half and sent the ball whizzing into the far corner. The big question on Aquinas’ minds was could they come back. realistically we knew they couldn’t, only Liverpool can do that sort of thing, but it was a nervy enough second half until the whistle blew, the blue and black army invaded the pitch and scenes of joy erupted all over the park. What NIBFA defeat! All that remained now was for Matthew Carson to lead the jubilant team to pick up the league and cup trophies. It had been a long season, but it ended happy.

The double winning team was: Matthew Carson, (capt), Kevin McGovern, Dan Rainey, Dan McGranaghan, Darragh Magill, Lewis McNamara, Philip O’Sullivan, Peter Morgan, Joe Cunnane, Matt Hughes, Caelan McAllister, John McAllister, Hugh O'Connor, James Guinness, Konrad Stinson and Ryan Sharkey. In addition, six players were selected for the Foyle Cup team, namely Matt Carson, Matt Hughes, Dara Magill, Lewis McNamara, Kevin McGovern and Peter Morgan

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