Coach's Corner

Challenge Cup 2004

Southern Gazette June 14.2004

By Gord Dunphy

gorddunphy@email.com




Before I take a look at the 2004 teams which will compete for the Provincial Challenge Cup this season, I feel very disappointed by the loss of the Feildian Senior Soccer club. The “Double Blues”, as they became known, are out of Challenge Cup competition this season. I do feel for Jimmy Hamlyn, Jimmy Royal, P.J. Power and Patty Kennedy and I’m sure there are many others who gave their all to this organization. Indeed, this is a sad day for all Feildian Alumnus and for provincial soccer in general. These kinds of situations have to be addressed and the question of where our future is headed must be asked. A similar situation happened in the towns of Grand Bank, Lawn and Burin. The difference with this particular situation is that the Feildians are a city team and cannot blame their folding on out-migration or declining population. Simply put, this is a situation that must be addressed within the provincial soccer circle.



Another New Format



Due to the fact that this province can only muster together five senior teams that will compete for the Provincial Challenge Cup, the NLSA has changed the schedule to a twenty game season, with the top four teams competing in a tournament planned for Labour Day Weekend. No longer will we have Tier I and Tier II after round one. There are just not enough teams in Newfoundland and Labrador to carry on with the old format. Senior soccer appears headed in the same direction as the former provincial senior hockey unless leaders provide real leadership. I also feel that seeing there are now only five registered teams, only three of those teams should advance to the second round, making first round competition more competitive. I would predict that the team that finishes in last place in the first round will be another team that will fold next year.



The Teams of 2004

Now I will look at the clubs that are competing for the Challenge Cup this season:



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MOUNT PEARL:



After finally winning the Provincial Challenge Cup in 2003, following years of struggling as soccer’s underachievers, Mount Pearl will realize that it is harder to stay on top than what it is to get there. League MVP for 2003, Alec Turpin will be again called upon to lead Mount Pearl. This time however, Alec will have much more difficulty without strikers Jeff Walsh, Patrick Fewer and Rob Carter. The losses of Victor Dray and Carl Reddy won’t help their team’s cause either. The addition of former Holy Cross players Shane Antle and Chad Parson will cause inner turmoil. On that note, I am at a loss to understand the jump from one team to another that these two players have made. I can fully understand playing with a different team if your own has folded (such as in the case of the Feildians). Maybe this move gives indication as to why Holy Cross have not been successful in the last number of years. Mount Pearl’s season could be a long one, although they will easily make the Top Four.



COACHES CORNER FORECAST:



Coach Walt Mavin is already under the gun for bringing in these new players and the pressure is on again for this young team to repeat as champions.



ST. LAWRENCE:



I like this young team now that John Douglas has again committed to the Laurentian Blue for a second consecutive season. I expect John to be more at ease and to be the league’s best keeper in 2004. Clinton Edwards and Robert Kelly are getting older and a lot wiser. Blair Alyward and Paul “Manager” Slaney bring experience. Chris Caines, Paul Slaney (Jerome), Patrick Edwards and Adam Loder will be a dominating midfield. Forwards Rudy Norman and Richard Kelly have proven in the past that they can be the leagues best.



COACHES CORNER FORECAST:



Coach Edwards and his assistant Derek Strang, will carry this team to a first-place round one finish. Ryan Slaney, Jamie Loder, Justin Clarke, Grant Pitman, Marc Pittman, Ryan Drake and Brent Kelly are a very strong supporting cast.



MARYSTOWN:



Goalkeepers Scott Edwards and NJ Edwards are adequate. Craig Edwards and newcomer Vinny McDougall should be a very strong defensive unit. The Stewart twins, David and Darryl, both should be placed in midfield. Center midfield has always been a problem for Marystown. Newcomers Mike Wall and Patrick Fewer will give added scoring and flexibility to Coach Pickett. Dion Durdle, David Pickett and Mark Pickett will be utilized.



COACHES CORNER FORECAST:



Coach Pickett must keep the focus on his team rather than on himself. Coaching-wise, he has ability but he must not lose focus. Marystown manage to keep performing from year to year but I don’t see long term here. Bringing in these defectors in is only a band-aid solution, I don’t think there is much green in their blood.



HOLY CROSS:



Holy Cross team player Matthew Prim comes into this year as the league’s “Most Overrated Player”, and I may have overrated him myself. Last year I saw too many soft goals on him and he hasn’t won anything on the senior level yet. New coach Martin Rose arrived in St. John’s in August of 2003 from British Columbia, and has both Canadian and UK Coaching credentials. He has coached with the Vancouver Metro League and in the British Energy Kent County League. The collapse of the Feildians, combined with the remaining Holy Cross players that did not bail out on them, are a pretty good group of soccer players. Unfortunately, none of them know how to win. Chris Roche, Stephen Croft, Mark Fleming, J.B. Delrizzo, Jeremey Babstock, Jay Babstock, Jonathan Lacey, Gerry Lacey, Steve Howell, Sean Connolly and Mike Kirby will need to play with a strong team concept to win.



COACHES CORNER FORECAST:



If coach Martin Rose can get Holy Cross to play together as a group, he will win “Coach of the Year”.



CORNER BROOK:



This is another squad that has to deal with the abandonment of players who feel they are stars, namely Mike Wall, Vinny McDougall, and Mark Peddle. These three men have decided to bring their individual talent to Marystown, but I would like to remind them that soccer is a team sport, which they seem to have forgotten. My hat goes off to Coach Doug Sweetapple and his group comprised of Clarence Bennett, Corey Rideout, Colin Lynch, Jeremy Herrit, Mark Fitzpatrick, Bruce Miller, Kevin Oram, Kev Lasaga, Matt Quigley, Shawn Jenkins, Gary Matthews, Ronnie Jesso, Chris Griffin and Alan Staples. Good luck guys !!



COACHES CORNER FORECAST:



I think Corner Brook should be commended for playing in a league with a schedule that provides five weekend road trips across the province while other teams only have to travel that far once. Despite all of this, I am glad to see Corner Brook in senior soccer. But as of now, I feel Corner Brook will place last.



Gord Dunphy is a former all-star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and a national bronze medallist. He can be reached at gorddunphy@email.com