2007 - 2008
The year began with some confidence after the blistering campaigns of 2006/2007. A new Red Star team, managed by Peter Lynch and Richard Murphy, came on stream at under 12. Similarly, the club was able to field an under 19 team in the North Down League, managed by Bobby McCambridge and Eddie Agnew. Colm McCambridge, and later Paul Devlin, joined Red Star under 13 manager Sean Montgomery. The departure of Stevie Martin mid season from the under 15s saw Stephen McDonald arrive to help Garry Cullen.
At mini-soccer, the arrival of Brendan McCann and Colm Keenan to the Swifts, Conor Campbell to help Frank Fleming with the Rams, Paul Crossey to join Stephen Connolly with the Hotspurs and the return of Fra McCann to take charge of the Tornadoes provided the much needed annual replenishment of the mini-soccer school.
Off the field, the club took possession for the year, at least, of the pitches at Balmoral High School on Black’s Road. There are two grass and one second generation pitches. The club also has access to the changing rooms. An initiative was also undertaken to try to obtain a long term arrangement, in partnership with St. Bride’s GAC, at the YMCA site at Knightsbridge.
Jim Morrison, who had shadowed Pascal Donnelly and Marty McNally at under 10 last year, remained with the new under 10s, where he was joined by his old Tornadoes partner Mike Gibbons. What a year it was to be for the under 10s. What a team. The team raced through the year, recording one of the club’s highest ever wins, 20 – 0 over Hawthorne, and dropping four out of sixty three points. Breathtaking! The league was won with four matches to spare.
The team then turned its attentions to the cup, cruising to a final against BSS Lisburn. It was played on 30 April 2008 at the Blanchflower stadium. It was a tight enough affair, we scored first, they equalised, the game wet to extra time and looked to be heading for penalties when a blue’n’black winner brought the double to South Belfast.
There have been many doubles won in the club’s history. Successful progression into the final of the Glenn O’Hare cup raided the tantalising prospect of the club’s first treble. The final was played at Black’s Road on Tuesday 13 May 2008 in front of a crowd, easily in excess of 100 blue’n’black. Our opponents were Newbridge. The game began tensely. First blood went to Aquinas, with a superb shot from Peter Webb. Back came Newbridge with an equaliser soon after. Back to square one. Half time, 1 – 1.
The second half saw Aquinas take the lead again through the craft of John Blaney, only in the dying minutes to let Newbridge back. Full time 2 – 2. Extra time of ten minutes each was now to be played out in the glorious sunshine. Stamina and freshness would count for everything now. The first half saw several chances, but no score. The second half began. Ten minutes now for one team to make the difference. A goal now would be difficult to claw back. Aquinas saw a couple of chances squandered. In one case, the ball would appear to have crossed the line, but was not given by the linesman. In another case a goal was disallowed for a foul that no-one but the linesman saw. Then the breakthrough! Aquinas pressure produced the goal, when Joseph Finnegan made no mistake. 3 -2. Try as they could, Newbridge could not get back.
The final whistle sounded, the pitch was invaded, the treble, the first in the club’s history, had been won. The celebrations continued long and hard. The treble winning under 10 squad was: Hugh Gibbons, Enda Kelly-McCann, James Carson, Patrick Finnegan, John Blaney, Frank McCormack, Rory Cullen, Ryan McGuigan, Paul Storrs, Ethan Murphy, Peter Webb, Jake Morrison, Daire McGarvey, James Smith, Daniel Guinness, Jack Johnston, Joseph Finnegan and Diarmaid Madden. To mark the event a social evening was held in the Wellington Park Hotel on Saturday
The under 11s under Pascal Donnelly, Marty McNally and Brendan McAuley started shakily and although they then put together a great run couldn’t get back into the title race and were always destined to be just of the chase. The cup run was better, reaching the semi final before going out to Riada on penalties. The NIBFA run was equally impressive. The semi final seemed to have been won, when with two minutes on the clock and Aquinas 1 – 0 up, the referee gave the most bizarre of penalties. Riada scored and went on to win 2 – 1 in extra time.
The NIBFA Secretary had been at the match and found the penalty decision baffling. On his advice, Aquinas appealed. The appeal went all the way to FIFA, which ordered a replay. The replay took place at Wellington Rec’s ground outside Larne on a lovely sunny evening. Aquinas took an early lead, only to let Riada back into it when a high ball in from a corner fooled the keeper. The game looked to be heading to extra time, when a misplaced swipe to clear the ball left the Riada striker to run in behind. One on one with the keeper, he didn’t miss and slid the ball firmly into the net. 2 -1 to Riada and an up and down season was over, but with a bit of history made, admittedly off the field, on the way.
The under 12s started with the expectations from the previous year hanging heavy. Similarly, a slightly off form start to the season left them playing catch up with Dungoyne. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the team, with its usual lovely football and individual skills, Dungoyne couldn’t be caught. Last year’s double winners had to make do with second place after a thrilling 5 – 4 play off with SOPYC at Black’s Road. Similarly, the cup run ended with no final appearance and a second successive NIBFA final evaporated on a wet and squally Sunday at Boucher Road. There will be another year for a genuinely skilful and talented squad of players.
Under 12 Red Star joined the Aquinas family this year. Under the experienced gaze of Peter Lynch and the youthful wisdom of Richard Murphy they notched up some impressive victories and enjoyed, if that is the word, a nightmare cup draw, against Linfield. The team has some useful players and will continue to grow under Peter and Richard’s attention.
The under 13s started their first full season under the management of Brendan Rainey and Paul McGuigan. The team put up a credible performance finishing in the top half of the table and having a lot of craic along the way, including a mad dash to Ballymena in the NIBFA cup after their bus failed to materialise. Dungoyne put them out of the cup and it was very much a season of consolidation on which to build for next year.
Sean Montgomery, Colm McCambridge and Paul Devlin took charge of the under 13 Red Star team. Despite having some good players and producing some good football, the team struggled for most of the season, recording only two victories in total. However, the managers have their eyes on more players and are already looking forward to next season and to building on the squad’s first year of playing together.
Seamus McLernon, Sam McMenamy and Brian McCrea remained at the helm of the under 14s. Up against a very strong Cliftonville and in the only age group to contain a Linfield team, It was always going to be a hard climb for the under 10 champions. So it turned out, but nonetheless, a credible performance finishing fourth. In the cup, a convincing win over Bangor Rangers pitted us against The under 14 Red Star team, under John O’Rourke and David McCullough continued to make good use of their experience gained over two seasons to put in good steady performances, which did not always produce the result deserved. You don’t always get justice in football. Nonetheless, the experience is there and will stand them in good stead for next year.
The under 15s, who won the league and cup double last year struggled from start to finish. Stevie Martin took a break from the team, to be replaced by Stephen McDonald. The team produced some sterling performances, notably well beating old rivals Rosario with only ten men. At the same time, continuing haemorrhaging of the squad took its toll and it became, essentially, a question of survival and rebuilding in the close season for next year. This team won the NIBFA cup in 2004 and will be back stronger next year.
The fairy tale team of this year was undoubtedly Aiden Duffy’s under 15 Red Star. Helped as always by Jim Magee and John McCartney, the team started well and were one of the early pace setters with promotion a reasonable target. However, fortunes faded a bit in the second half of the league campaign and a fourth place finish had to be settled for .. this year. However, it was in the cup that under 15 Red Star really caught the imagination, powering passed Deanby with a 5 – 2 demolition to claim Red Star’s first cup semi final place. Unfortunately, Dungoyne were too strong for the red and black minnows and the dream ended. Nonetheless, this year was a well deserved reward for all the work and, perhaps more importantly, belief that Aiden has poured into this team and it augurs well fro the future. I don’t think anyone would bet against promotion before this team comes to the end of its life span.