Shamrocks Rule

Incredible!!! Unbelievable!!! Unreal!!! These are just a few of the adjectives that can describe the Lawn Shamrocks victory over the St. Lawrence Laurentians in the Provincial Masters final played in Lawn on Sunday, Sept.15. Actually, what’s so amazing about this victory is the fact that the Laurentians had three, active Challenge Cup players forming the nucleus of their Laurentians Masters team. They were Laurentians team captain Bob Spearns, combined with a very skilled midfielder Paul Slaney, and a versatile Harry Kelly who played striker for the Laurentians Masters. All three of these players will be participating with the senior Laurentians at the National Challenge Cup tournament to be played in St. John’s on Thanksgiving Day Weekend.

4 and more!

For the last four seasons, the Lawn Shamrocks have won the Provincial Masters Championship and they have done it in fine fashion, going undefeated each year. In the 1999 championship game, Lawn defeated Gander by a 1-0 margin. In 2000, the Shamrocks routed Feildians by a convincing 3-0 margin. In 2001 the Lawn squad got by a stubborn Holy Cross team for a slim 1-0 victory. But none have been sweeter than this year’s 3-2 penalty shot shoot-out victory over their long time arch-rivals, the St. Lawrence Laurentians.

The Line-ups

Obviously, Lawn must have realized that in order to stop the Laurentians goals scoring unit of Harry Kelly and his partner Ed Kelly, they would have to have a strong defensive unit. Former Fortune star player Albert Stacey started in net. Lawn coach Derek Strang took Rod Roul back from the midfield position and combined him with future Hall of Famer, Colin Edwards. He put Wade Roul and Jim Bennett in the wingback position. The strength of the Laurentians midfield was Paul Slaney who was united with Mel Stacey, Brian Haskell and Junior Edwards. The Shamrocks counterattacked by putting Herb Edwards, Tommy Burton, Brud Edwards and Toby Lockyer in the middle. Laurentians defensive unit, spearheaded by centre-backs Bob Spearns and Dwayne Hickey, plus Randy Edwards and Tony Cornish were to stop the Lawns forwards Luke Edwards, Gord Lambe and Lloyd Brockeville.

A Classic

When talking about Newfoundland Masters Soccer Championship finals, this championship game may be written down in the history books as a classic. This game was a dandy, although it wasn’t played much like what was supposed to be a masters final. It was far superior. Both teams demonstrated grit, desire and determination right from the opening whistle. Early in the game, as both teams felt each other out and banged each other around, great soccer was being played. As the game continued, both teams showed respect to each other but demonstrated very little mercy. If a battle were to be won, you have to be willing to pay the price. At the 20-minute mark, Bob Spearns took a short pass, originating from a set play. He bypassed the Lawn wall and shot, scoring a beauty and giving the Laurentians a 1-0 lead. This goal stood up for the remainder of the period. Early in the second period, with the Laurentians threatening deep in the Shamrock zone, referee Dale Slaney called a violation against Lawn’s Herb Edwards and awarded the Laurentians a penalty shot. Harry Kelly accepted the gift and upped the Laurentians score by a 2-0 margin.

Shamrocks Comeback

The Shamrock’s displayed their attitude of “Never Say Die” and started their comeback. They displayed the eye of the tiger, dug down deep and started controlling the play. They missed numerous scoring chances but as a result of their persistence, they eventually prevailed. With a superb header, Luke Edwards deflected a bullet- like shot and the only thing the Laurentians net minder Junior Doyle could do was stare. The Laurentians then centred the ball and again, after the Shamrocks regained position, they started to press. Soon afterwards, at the 60-minute mark, the “old bull” Colin Edwards came roaring in to the 40-yard line and let go a shot. Junior Doyle again looked but there was no ball for him to stop, only hometown cheers. Colin’s goal was another highlight goal and tied the score at 2-2.The remainder of the game and overtime saw limited scoring opportunities but some great defensive plays at both ends of the field.

Penalty Shots

Maybe the ironic part of the tournament was - rather than who scored on their penalty shot, who missed? Missing for the Laurentians were Bob Spearns and Harry Kelly, another two future Hall of Famers. Bren Brenton took the only Shamrock missed penalty shot. Thus the Lawn Shamrocks were awarded the contest and retained the Provincial Title for a fourth consecutive year.

Tournament Controversy

Despite this great final, all was not well in this tournament. The main point of controversy stemmed from the age limit allowed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association for provincial tournaments. The age category permitted by the NLSA for this tournament reads: “The age limit is fixed at 35 years and older as of January 1st of the current year. Players who are 35 or older who played senior or intermediate soccer the previous year may go directly into masters.” Simply put, if you are not 35 years old by January 1st of this year, you are not old enough to compete in this tournament. Based on the age requirements permitted, St. Lawrence protested the eligibility of Holy Cross player Dean Mullett. Here, in this case, Holy Cross did no wrong. It was the vice-president of the NLSA, Russ Barnes who was incorrect. Mr Barnes should have first checked the NLSA rulebook to see what the rules stated before agreeing that it was O.K. for Mullett to play. According to the rulebook Mr. Barnes was totally wrong. He stated, “It’s the master’s player who makes up the rules”. He may be correct but I feel this should be done during boardroom meetings at the Annual General Meeting, not at the site of one’s tournament. Strangely enough, prior to the tournament, when Lawn questioned the eligibility of Jimmy Strang and Syl Edwards, an NLSA official Doug Redmond informed them, that both of these players were ineligible to play. All three of the players in question, Mullett, Edwards, and Strang turned 35 this year. The rule is, you must turn 36 this year in order to participate.

Love of the Game

My understanding is that the primary object in playing masters soccer is for players to compete on a purely social basis. Originally, this league was set up for “old-timers”. Because of the love of the game, these players want to keep playing but more so at a recreational level. The players in this league should be former competitive players who obviously have lost a step or two to the younger players in the more competitive leagues. Any player that so desires to play masters soccer should be willing to share equal time with all of his team-mates. During the senior men’s provincial tournament, I’ve witnessed Challenge Cup players become visibly upset when they felt they didn’t get ample playing time during the play downs on Labour Day weekend. Also, during the master’s tournament, I’ve observed masters players receiving very little playing time. It appears to me that, other than the Burin Peninsula teams, the rest of the island teams play Masters Soccer for a recreational purpose. We are far too serious!