Queen’s fall short against champions elect Aquinas FC, as battling first half display is ultimately undone by a very solid, league-leading Aquinas side.
Aquinas will be viewed as champions elect of Division 2B, after they managed to overcome a spirited and valiant effort by the Queen’s University IIs. The two in-form teams of the division produced a keenly contested, physical, and tactical affair of genuine quality, but unfortunately for Queen’s, a spirited first forty-five minutes from the university side was undone as Aquinas FC ratcheted up their intensity in the second half. An intensity which could not be matched by Queen’s.
Going into the game, Aquinas has won every encounter they had played in the league – scoring a staggering 41 goals in eight games, conceding only seven, beating Queen’s 5-2 at Dub Lane in the process, back in early October. The students, though, went into the game with optimism, bolstered by their own fine run of victories in November. Queen’s had won four games on the trot in the league, and sent Finaghy FC packing in the Cochrane Corry Cup. A run of form that may be credited to the leadership and coaching of Luke Ogilvie, who has managed to communicate a clear and defined style of play to his side, after the somewhat disjointed start to the league campaign.
The first half was a very tight affair, as the two sides attempted to assert some dominance of the midfield. Maguire and Homan, a duo who have been steadily finding their feet as a midfield combination, worked tirelessly to stem quick Aquinas interplay in the middle of the park. Queen’s were under pressure for the majority of the first half as O’Reilly, Hughes, and especially Devine, were forced to track back and defend. Renwick and Andrews, usually a consistent avenue for building attacks, were forced to concentrate on defending, as were the rest of the Queen’s side as they found themselves pinned back against a very well organised and skillful Aquinas FC.
Yet, the Queen’s defence withstood the steady pressure, and they got their reward with a glorious chance falling to McDermott. McDermott created the chance himself, pressurising the Aquinas back-line, forcing a transition high up the pitch – a tactic that Ogilvie has been keen to implement into his sides evolving arsenal. Ogilvie will have been disappointed to see his leading scorer only manage a meek effort. McDermott’s attributes as a striker have rarely been questioned, especially given his exemplary scoring record, but he will have been disappointed with his snatched effort.
Aquinas FC carved out a glorious chance of their own deeper into the first half, which Queen’s would have been happy didn’t find the back of the net. Covering defenders were surprised at the speed at which Aquinas suddenly bore down on them; facing a four on two situation as Aquinas moved the ball rapidly up the pitch. The Aquinas FC number nine was left with a free header, but luckily, the chance was spurned and Queen’s regrouped.
After the first half ended, Queen’s knew they had matched their opponents. Aquinas would have been the more unsettled of the two sides. They would not have been used to having the scoresheet untouched with half of the game gone. The second half, however, told a different story. The game opened up, and Aquinas came out of the dressing room intent on securing their ninth league win of the season.
In football, physicality is something that is often set aside; an antiquated art, outdated amongst the seemingly all-pervasive natter of tactics, formations, passages of play, transitions, individual brilliance, and skill. At amateur level, its importance can never be underestimated. For a University side full of young men, the second half of this game should be remembered not for their ability to match Aquinas FC in technical competency, but for their inability to match their physicality. The tone of the encounter changed in the second half, and the students could not match it, ultimately leading to misplaced passes, a drop in intensity, and ultimately – goals conceded.
Aquinas’ first goal came from a header which was intercepted and then placed past the keeper. Though it was a gift, Aquinas probably deserved their lead. Queen’s, however did not give up, and they attempting to carve a way back into the match through their skilful forward line. However, their efforts came up short, as two more goals were conceded as Aquinas fully asserted their dominance. The goals could easily be dissected but it would not be a fruitful exercise. It was plain to see that Aquinas FC upped their intensity, Queen’s that did not. McDermott did manage to score a late consolation, but unfortunately the result at that stage, was a foregone conclusion.
Ogilvie applauded his side at the end of the match, pointing to passages of play that exemplified the characteristics of a very good side: quick interplay between defence and midfield, intricate passages of one and two touch football along, and in-between, the formation lines, efficient recycling of possession, and periods of controlled game management. Where the students fell short, as Ogilvie noted, was when the question of who actually wanted to win the game was asked by the home side – who actually wanted to win the match, take the three points and see the fruits of their pains reflected in the league table on a Saturday evening. Queen’s, for all their individual skill, competent passing, organisation, and team-ethic – did not quite have the answer this time.