Rosario 2 -- Aquinas 1
Rosario completed the double with this victory over South Belfast rivals Aquinas at Knockbreda.
The game itself began with both teams looking slightly nervous and in containing mood rather than going out to force the play.
Aquinas made the most of the early nervousness and won a series of corners only to see them cleared. Matt Hughes was running amok and his sublime pass to Tom Maguire was flashed across the face of the goal as Conor Toner slid in at the back post but just failed to connect.
Rosario maestros Francis and McGonigle soon stamped their authority on the game. There were few, if any, chances in the opening half with Rosario creating a couple of half chances and Aquinas relying on their fast attacks that were well shackled by the, as usual, exceptional pairing of Hughes and O’Hara.
With Aquinas playing with a lone striker it was left back McPeake, for Rosario, who took it upon himself to try and force the play.
The highlight of the first half was a brilliantly executed free-kick from the impressive Ryan Murray.
His strike seemed certain to blow a hole in the net until the diving Matt Carson somehow blocked the ball with the back of his head.
At the other end Ciaran Mohan’s free was punched off the line and Niall McCourt shot wide. Hugh O’Connor and Dan Rainey gave everything as half time approached but neither side could break the deadlock as defences held firm.
The second period saw a much more potent Rosario team take to the field. Colaluca and Devlin, working much more closely, gave the centre half pairing of Aquinas their first real test.
Devlin broke down the right, rolled the ball to Colaluca and he rounded the defender but his left foot shot drifted over the bar.
A few minutes later, Colaluca produced a moment of real brilliance when he picked the ball up from Whiffen and out-stripped the Aquinas defence.
He composed himself and fired low into the corner of the goal. A few minutes later it was Devlin who scored what was to become the winner. This time it was down the right with McGonigle, Murray and Colaluca all involved.
The combination play found Devlin in space and his powerful shot ended up in the net. Aquinas now had a mountain to climb but dug deep and continued to create chances with a Flynn header and Maguire rocket coming close. With 20 minutes to go, Aquinas switched to a more attacking formation with Paddy O’Boyle, Cormac O’Hanlon and Joe Cunnane adding to the mix.
The impact was immediate as a mazy run from Cunnane was abruptly halted and Mohan basted the resulting free with such ferocity that it was spilled over the line.
McConville and Smyth were introduced by Rosario to give added strength to their defence. A nervy last 15 minutes for Rosario but they held firm, with the magnificent Hynes making amends with a spectacular save with his right leg from O’Boyle.
Rosario held on to secure the victory and lift both the SBYL Cup and league titles. Both trophies were presented to the ever consistent Rosario captain Matty McCamley. His performance on the night epitomised everything that was good about this Rosario squad.
Rosario’s season has been one of almost exclusive highs.
They reached the semi-final of the NIBFA Cup only to be defeated on penalties by Foyle Harps.
The league campaign was littered with a plethora of exceptional performances, most notably victories over Immaculata and Dungoyne thanks to magnificent braces by the powerful Nugent and the classy McGarry.
The SBYL Cup was memorable for the brilliant game against, last season’s finalists, Dungoyne and the pulsating penalty shoot-out victory over league runners up Immaculata.
Hagans’ last minute equaliser kept the Roses in the cup. Ultimately the cup highlight was the brilliant victory over Aquinas.
The NIBFA Cup was something of a learning curve for the squad as they beat Crusaders, Bertie Peacock and Larne Youth only to fall at the penultimate stage in a marvellous game against Foyle Harps.
The one moment of concern during the season, was the untimely health concerns relating to the towering sportsman and athlete Domhnall Nugent.
He was becoming a real force at the heart of our defence, his presence may well have enabled the team to complete the treble but as it is we are more than happy he is on the road to recovery.
A season that began with our fabulous Italian experience and ended with this most recent cup victory completing a hat-trick of SBYL Cup wins.
Thanks to a magnificent group of parents and supporters including the ever present Kieran McConville and Aidan Smyth whose contribution throughout the long season must not be underestimated.
Also to the members of the Colaluca, Whiffen, McGarry, Francis, and McDonald families who attended almost every match giving support to their son and the team.
And to Mark McCamley who was always on hand to offer his ‘wise’ counsel.
Also finally, to all who supported us on any occasion, thanks to you all and hopefully we can keep the Rosario success rolling in the coming season.
Rosario’s double winning squad and season’s goalscoring record: Matthew Colaluca (41), Michael McGonigle (17), Daniel Devlin (16), Ryan Murray (12), Jack Hagans (9), Domhnall Nugent (9), Conor Francis (8), Rory Hughes (7), Lawrence Whiffen (6), Conal McGarry (6), Dominic McConville (5), Daire McPeake (5), Matthew McCamley (c) (4), Donal Smyth (3), Daniel McDonald (2), Mark Patterson (2), Mark Hynes (2), Joel O’Hara (1).
Aquinas: Kevin McGovern, Hugh O’Connor, Niall McCourt, Conor Flynn, Thomas Cafolla, Caolan Lynch, Joe Cunnane, Matt Carson (c), Cormac O’Hanlon, Ciaran Mohan, Dan Rainey, Philip O’Sullivan, Paddy O’Boyle, Peter Morgan, Matt Hughes, Conor O’Doherty, Conor Toner, Tomas Maguire, Martin Beeton.