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Champions!

A stunning effort by both school football teams, saw Victoria Park bring home not one, but two trophies from the Ashfield 7 a side tournament.

In appalling conditions, the two teams played a total of seven matches each, culminating in a victorious finals for both teams.

The A team, consisting of Aaron (GK), Jay, Ebony, Reuben, Kameron, Rylan (c), Zach and Evan, began with a 1-0 victory over Strandtown B, thanks to a goal by Rylan. Their second game saw them draw 0-0 with Cregagh A, thanks in no small part to the heroics of the Cregagh goalkeeper.

In group game three, they came up against Harding B and produced their most complete performance of the day, winning 4-0 with goals from Kameron, Evan and two for Rylan.

In game four they played Gilnahirk B and got out to an early lead through a good finish by Zach but were pegged back by a swift counter attack goal. The game looked to be heading for another draw before Rylan finished strongly to sneak a 2-1 victory.

In the final, crucial group game, two goals from Rylan were enough, not just for a 2-0 win, but also to secure top place in the group.

This set up a semi-final match with Elmgrove. It was an incredibly tight game, that despite good efforts by both teams, ended in a 0-0 draw. This led to a sudden death penalty shootout. Both teams had their first efforts saved. Aaron then saved the second Elmgrove penalty well, leaving it to Kameron to win it with an unstoppable strike into the top corner.

In the final the team played Strandtown A and got out to an early two goal lead, thanks to Evan and Rylan. This was a longer, 10 minute match which gave Strandtown time to get back into the game and equalise with a minute remaining. Again the match went to penalties. Aaron yet again made an incredible diving stop to save a good penalty. That meant Rylan was able to step up and win the trophy for Victoria Park, becoming the first team to successfully defend their title!

The B team also tasted success, bringing home more silverware. The squad consisted of Lee B. (Gk) Bailey, Denis, Liam, Lewis, Sebastian, Jay Jay, Dawid and Lee N. They began with an incredibly difficult game against one of the pre-tournament favourites, Lisnasharragh. This was the first time that a lot of the players had played together and it ended in a tough defeat.

In the second game, against Knocknagoney, the team showed their character, bouncing back from the loss by winning 1-0, thanks to a goal from Lee N.

Nettlefield A were the third opponents for the team. The team lost their striker Lee in this game, after a clash with the Nettlefield goalkeeper, but Bailey stepped up to score what looked to be an important goal. After Lee B. had made some outstanding saves the Nettlefield pressure final told and the team lost 2-1.

This left two important games for the team and against Strandtown C Lewis scored a vital goal to secure victory with less than a minute on the clock. The team then showed great resilience to hold on for a 0-0 draw and find themselves in the fourth place bowl semi-final.

The weather deteriorated for the semi-final which made it very difficult for both teams. The game ended goalless which meant a penalty shootout. After their opponents shot went over the bar, Lee N. stepped up and sealed a final place.

The final, also against Strandtown, was another tight affair with few clear chances for either team. Lee was unlucky to have a penalty saved in regular time meaning the game finished in another draw and another sudden death shootout. This time it was Lee B. who was the goalkeeping hero with a strong save. Sebastian then handled the pressure, blasting the ball home to win the bowl for Victoria Park.

I would just like to commend all the players who gave their all in horrendous conditions. The resilience and teamwork that they showed reflected brilliantly on our school. Without wanting to single out individuals, I must mention Rylan, whose seven goals and the winning penalty, meant that he was awarded the player of the tournament. I would also like to say a big thank you to Ashfield Boys HS and all the organisers.

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