Coach's Corner

2006 Challenge Cup annual report card

Southern Gazette August 15.2006

By Gord Dunphy

2006 Challenge Cup annual report card

The 2006 soccer season certainly hasn’t been a banner season with regards to the calibre of play that I’ve witnessed thus far. Actually this may very well be the weakest senior mens’ league I’ve ever observed in our province. My feeling is that there are three legitimate teams vying for the Challenge Cup championship title this season. They are Mount Pearl, St. Lawrence and Holy Cross. There are times that these three clubs look very ordinary. I feel the other three clubs competing in the provincial league this summer are only intermediate clubs at best. Both Feildians and Marystown have been virtual ‘no shows’ this season. However, I do like the direction of the Burin club, which is showing signs of promise for the future. Realistically, they are still another two or three years away from being a legitimate contender.

At this time I’ll take an even closer look at the individual clubs.

Mount Pearl/That Pro Look/ Molson

Mount Pearl have looked great at times this season, but their failure to dig in and show any sort of killer instinct on a consistent basis may hurt them before seasons end. John Kelly, Shane Antle and Justin Pickford have led the club and have been stand outs for Mount Pearl. This young Pickford kid has been worth the price of admission alone this season. Mark Reddy and Ian Power have stepped up their level of play.

Coach’s Corner Comments: On the other hand, Mount Pearl’s defensive unit has been at times vulnerable. I have noticed that Mount Pearl’s keeper Gerald Connolly’s goaltending has somewhat softened this season and Chad Parsons style of play makes him very susceptible when his opponents attack him on the ground. Parsons does carry a very strong physical presence when his opponents try and approach their zone in the air.

St. Lawrence Laurentians

The Laurentians are another club that have looked great at times and terrible at times. Rudy Norman, Paul Slaney and Clinton Edwards, when healthy, have been standouts. Both young Marc Pittman and Brent Kelly have shown considerable improvement this season.

Coach’s Corner Comments: There is no doubt in my mind now that the majority of the Laurentians are living in the St. John’s area that both veteran players Rudy Norman and Blair Aylward are having their fair share in the say of how the team is run, both on and off the field. I do feel the ultimate success, or lack of, for the Laurentians may very well lie with the injury sustained to Richard Kelly. Even in the earlier showings this season Kelly was struggling with a lack of physical fitness.

St. John’s - Holy Cross

The league’s top striker John Hawco has led Holy Cross. Hawco has two good feet, reads the game well, is super in the air and his diagonal runs confuse his opponents. Both midfielder Jeremy Babstock and striker/midfielder Corey Moore has had a solid year. John Lacey and Mark MacDonald have shown improvement, but need to be more consistent. Then again, I’m still at a point where I am questioning the strength of their goaltending. I feel you need adequate goal keeping to win a provincial championship and the team’s keepers are very questionable.

Coach’s Corner Comments: Overall in 2006, Holy Cross’ level of reliability has weakened. For whatever reason they generally play to the level of their competition. I’ve seen them put up a good show against the leagues top teams, but I’ve also seen them look as weak as their competitors when they’re playing against weaker teams.

St. John’s Feildians

The Feildians appear to be a group of players just out for a kick this season. Although Paddy Kennedy and Gus Richards, when called upon, do give it their all. Steven Croft, Neil Bodman and Matthew Prim are pursuing professional careers and their studies obviously have taken precedence over soccer. Chris Roche, John Hogan and Richard Sepyka have shown some improvement this season.

Coach’s Corner Comments: Feildians just have too many sub-par players to compete at a senior level. The absence of key personal during a number of their games, plus the loss of Matthew Wilkins for most of this season due to a back injury, have left Feildians looking very ordinary.

Marystown United Mariners

The Mariners, despite only having half the team’s players for most of the regular season games, may very well be the final team that advances to the Labour Day weekend finals. Scott Edwards and Colin Power are two players that have given it their all this season. Veteran Darrell Stewart’s play has improved as the season has progressed. The return of Johnny Pickett to Marystown’s lineup may very well be enough for the United to secure the final playoff position.

Coach’s Corner Comments: Despite Marystown’s dreadful season, my hat has to go off to Coach Mel Stacey and Vince Pickett for their efforts over the years for trying to maintain a senior soccer program in Marystown. I am convinced that without these two individuals there would have been no senior soccer in Marystown a long time ago.

Burin Eagles

Generally, a good solid effort has been put forward from all the players on this team. No doubt, they are a very young club at this point, but veteran players Jeff Warren, Shannon Brushett, Howie Drake and Paul Hartson have displayed superb leadership. Goalie Neil J. Edwards has proven he can play with the best of them at the top level and the team could have a bright future if this young squad continues to commit to coach Albert Anstey’s program.

Coach’s Corner Comments: Burin Soccer Association must be commended for a job well done this season. My choice for provincial ‘Coach of the Year’ goes to Albert Anstey for his efforts and commitment in returning the game of soccer in the community.