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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!