The prospects of the Sacred Heart College First XI football team winning the Auckland Premier League for the fourth consecutive year were bleak less than a fortnight ago.
Sacred Heart trailed Saint Kentigern College on both goal difference and points. In fact Sacred Heart had to beat St Kent’s on August 18 to have any chance of retaining their title and hope if St Kent’s didn’t lose their remaining two fixtures, they were unable to score as prolifically as the Catholics.
The enormity of Sacred Heart’s challenge was further compounded when captain Robert Dymond fell ill before the meeting against the competition leaders.
“I was sick for a whole week leading up to the St Kents game and was unable to train. I was put on the bench and was uncertain if I would play,” Dymond moans.
At halftime the game was tied 2-2, a score that lasted until the 84th minute. Dymond recalls what happened next.
“We won a penalty and I scored to make it 3-2. St. Kent’s threw numbers forward attempting an equaliser, but we caught them on the break and scored again to win 4-2.”
What did Sacred Heart learn from their first fixture against St Kents which they lost 0-1?
“We started real slow and fell behind early never reaching our best. We changed our formation this time and that made a difference. The other thing that helped was the crowd at Bill McKinlay park. If you can’t get fired up by the support there, you never will.”
St. Kent’s won their last match of the league against Westlake Boys’ High School 3-0 to finish with a 13-1 record and a goal differential of +61.
Sacred Heart required two big wins against Mount Roskill Grammar School and Auckland Grammar School to usurp St Kent’s. The Mount Roskill match boarded on a farce.
“We won 15-0, but it was only 7-0 with 20 minutes to go. We have struggled to score at times this year, but the boys really had their boots on that day. Our centre back Tom McCloy scored five goals,” Dymond marvelled.
The size of the Mount Roskill win meant Sacred Heart enjoyed a superior goal difference to St Kents and only required victory against Auckland Grammar School to wrap up the league crown.
“We won 4-0. It was a really clinical performance. It’s been a pretty crazy couple of weeks.” Dymond enthused.
In 14 games Sacred Heart outscored all opponents 87-7. Together with St Kent’s, Sacred Heart finished 19 points ahead of Auckland Grammar who were third.
On September 16 both schools will clash in the local knockout cup final, but next week attention turns to Nationals where Sacred Heart edged St Kent’s on penalties in last year’s final. Are Nationals a two-horse race again?
“It would seem like that, but we're not taking anything for granted. In a tournament environment anything can happen,” Dymond warns.
Sacred Heart will be without their New Zealand under-17 representatives Leon Van Den Hoven, Matthew Palmer and Kingsley Sinclair in Napier next week. National coach Danny Hay, ironically Sacred Heart’s mentor, has withdrawn all members of the squad selected to compete at the under-17 FIFA World Cup in India in October. The loss of Palmer who bagged 23 league goals will be keenly felt.
“It’s a blow not to have those guys, but we have lots of depth in our squad and are not the only ones to suffer. St Kent’s have three players out as well,” Dymond observes.
Dymond is originally from England and plans to return to his native pasture in 2018 to trial with Birmingham City FC. Robert’s family migrated to New Zealand when he was 10 years old.
“I love New Zealand. It was absolutely the right decision to come here. I have made a lot of friends and the football has been great,” he concluded.
Click Here for a full Nationals draw
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand