By Jay Mwamba
Dubliner Darren Thunder struck twice against St. Barnabas in the big Irish local derby at Randalls Island last Sunday, to keep Shamrock S.C. on par with New York Albanians in the closest Cosmopolitan Soccer League First Division title race in recent history.
Thunder’s brace (25th, 60th) in the 2-1 defeat of the Saints at Downing Stadium, kept Shamrock level with the Albanians on the 28-point mark, after the Bronx side overcame a 2-0 first-half deficit to defeat Banatul S.C., 4-2, at the Metropolitan Oval. Shamrock won for the seventh time against one loss and seven ties, while Albanians improved to 8-3-4.
But with three weeks remaining in the season, Ronan Downs’s New York Athletic Club, winners of three of the last four CSL championships, moved to within a point of the joint leaders with a 1-0 decision over New York Hungaria, on new signing Andre Parris’s 50th minute strike.
And S.C. Gjoa’s fifth straight victory — against defending champs New York Croatia this time — could turn the final dash into a four-horse race.
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Darren Thunder’s goals, while keeping Shamrock on course for their first major crown in the CSL, effectively killed off their Irish rivals’ own title hopes, Shamrock coach John Guildea conceded.
"We didn’t give them a chance to settle on the ball," Guildea said after the thriller. "They’re a good team, but some of their top players came in late."
Tom Whitty, the Saints midfielder who gave up coaching duties last season to concentrate on playing, said that despite most of his players having to perform double duty on the day for both reserve and first teams, "they [Shamrock] beat us fair and square."
The 33-year-old Whitty himself was one of the Saints who played in both games. The St. Barnabas reserves faired better against their Shamrock rivals, running off 3-0 winners on goals by Paddy Murphy (two) and John Nolan. Mike Mrowzak (80th) connected for the first team.
In the first team’s victory, Thunder scored his first goal after a Paul Wilson free kick just inside the opposing half found the midfielder at the edge of the box. It seemed the best that he could achieve, with a headed effort from that distance, would be a knock on for a teammate, but he somehow got enough power into his header to propel it high into the Barnabas net for a spectacular goal.
The second half was played at a cracking pace. John Guildea’s clever back flick found Darren Thunder, who put the rocks ahea, 2-0, with 20 minutes left two up. Kevin McPartland in goal made some fine saves down the strewtch to turn back Barnabas.
For nearly an hour last Sunday, Shamrock were the sole leaders on the standings as Banatul led Albanians 2-0, courtesy of Andjelko Bogadanov (15th, penalty) and Kevin Tapalaga (35th) in Maspeth.
But former St. Barnabas striker Tony Camaj put Albanians back in the hunt with a rapid hat trick (55th, 60th, 72nd), before skipper Naum Kove sealed the win on the dusty and wind-swept Oval. Albanians’ reserves prevailed, 2-1.
"It’s getting tough, but our three remaining games are at home," Albanian official Joe Shrekli said, pointing out what could be a huge advantage for his side, on the final stretch.
The New York Athletic Club dug into its Ivy League reservoir and came up with two stars in forward Andre Parris from Princeton and Columbia alum Greg Smalling to energize their side against Hungaria, who kicked off at Travers Island sharing the lead with Shamrock and Albanians.
The two signings paid off as Parris bagged the only goal of the match. Smalling, meanwhile, got the nod from coach Ronan Downs as NYAC’s MVP.
"A huge win for us. Now we just have to keep on winning," added Downs, whose reserves won, 4-1.
It may not bode well for Shamrock and Albanians that NYAC (27 points) have a game in hand.
Gjoa streaks on
"I’m going to win everything this year," boasted Gjoa’s irrepressible Paddy O’Sullivan after a 3-1 romp over Croatia in Boonton, N.J.
The Gjoa men showed as much spunk as their boss, conceding an early goal to Croatia’s Rob Gretton and losing a player after Nir Svera’s equalizer, but still coming back to haul all the points with two goals by Colin Phillip.
"It was fantastic," remarked Scotsman Sean Conaghan, Gjoa’s left fullback and an ex-Celtic United youth player, who assisted on Phillip’s second goal. Gjoa (7-4-3, 24 points) also have a game in hand to the joint leaders and are playing like legitimate title contenders.
Goals by Florian Anton (65th) and Giovanni Zelaya (88th) couldn’t prevent B.W. Gottschee from succumbing 4-2 to fellow strugglers Polonia S.C. — a result that almost certainly confirms Gottschee’s drop to the Second Division. Dariusz Korytkowski, Mirek Sielczak, Sobolewski and Pasternak were on target for Polonia.
Shamrock face Romania
Third Division Ripensia-Romania "A" booked a quarterfinal date with John Guildea’s Shamrock first team on May 9 after thrashing Barnstonworth Rovers, 7-1, in their League Cup replay at Randalls Island.
Midfielder Razvan Anghel led Romania with five goals, while Olimpiu Roman and Ionut Georghescu each added one. Ben Wiener got the face-saver for Rovers, who fielded only nine players. Shamrock beat New York Wanderers 4-0 on April 18 to reach the quarterfinals.
It was a bad weekend overall for Barnstonworth Rovers in cup soccer. Gottschee hammered Rovers’ reserves, 6-1, in the Harry J. Saunders Cup second round, with Dave Denneau (four) and Ian MacLean (two) doing the damage.
Manhattan Kickers’ player-coach Mike Fitzgerald was left ruing another lost opportunity to pick up promotion points after going down 2-1 to CD Iberia in a top of the table (East) clash at Wards Island.
Roberto Lugris (15th) and Primitivo Rey (25th) sank Kickers who replied through Joe Whiteman (32nd). Iberia (33) opened up a 7-point lead over second-placed Kickers.