Thistle crowned champions!

Iveagh Thistle celebrate winning the league after beating Saintfield 4-2.
Iveagh Thistle celebrate winning the league after beating Saintfield 4-2.

AFTER a great 3-0 midweek win over Ballywalter, in what was the third of four must-win matches, Iveagh Thistle entered into the last game of the season in second place in the George Best Under 12 League but knowing a win would make them league champions, as the top of the table team had finished their league campaign and were only a point ahead. 

It was to be no easy task as they faced third place North Belfast who were out for revenge after they were narrowly beaten 1-0 in a tight encounter earlier in the season by the locals. 

Thistle, playing five in midfield to counteract a strong Belfast team, got off to the perfect start when on three minutes a ball into the box was palmed out by the keeper but late arriving Gallagher smashed the ball into the net to send his side one up. 

North Belfast responded well to their early set-back and had a good spell of possession, feeding the ball into their nippy striker at every opportunity but centre backs Scott and Stewart, who were in constant touching distance of him, were up to the challenge in the early exchanges. 

The game was being played at a frantic pace as both teams were trying to get the ball down and pass it wide but it was Thistle who thought they had increased their lead, when from a cross from right sided Donnelly that was touched home, was declared off side. 

Thistle had now settled into their passing style and were having the majority of the play and came close when a Donnelly run and shot went narrowly wide as the half time whistle blew.

As the second half got under way the game resumed the same pattern with the strong mid field three of McCavitt, Gallagher and Quigley winning the ball, protecting the back four and sending Moore and Donnelly free on the wings, who provided striker Carroll with balls to attack, but the Belfast defence stood firm. 

Ten minutes into the second half Iveagh Thistle made a change with McMillan coming on at left back and at the same time wingers Moore and Donnelly swapped sides in what turned out to be a Mourinho-like tactical switch. 

Almost instantly the move of the match provided the all important second goal, when McCavitt passed to Moore who threaded a well weighted ball into the patch of Donnelly who in turn passed to on rushing striker Carroll. His first time shot found the bottom corner to much joy on the touchline, a goal that typified Thistle’s season. 

Again Belfast responded well and it took some timely interventions from captain Woods and a last gasp tackle from McMillan to keep them out.  When they did have the ball in the net on 20 minutes it was their turn to be disappointed as the offside flag had been raised. 

At this stage Wilson’s fresh legs were added to Thistle midfield as the clock continued to tick down, but it was no time for a lack of concentration from the locals as the dangerous Belfast outfit were still dangerous. 

Moments later a great run and finish from hard working midfielder Gallagher put the game beyond doubt with his second of the match to make it three nil with only eight minutes left. 

Thistle played out the game full of confidence, keeping it tight at the back and still looking dangerous on the attack and just before the final whistle the fourth goal was scored when the Belfast keeper was deceived by a high bounce and could only manage to palm the ball down to striker Carroll who had nipped in to score his second to make the final score 4-0. 

The end of the match was greeted with tremendous celebration on the pitch and on the touchline by the management team and the enthusiastic supporters who can reflect on a wonderful season. 

This is a great achievement for a club in only its second year and their success is much to do with their style of football which is a joy on the eye. 

Iveagh Thistle would like to send a special thanks to their sponsor, Mooney Media, who have been a great help to the local team.