THEY say good things come in threes and that was certainly the case for International Soccer Club on Sunday when its A Grade side claimed the 2019 Limestone Coast Football Association premiership in wet conditions over traditional rival Apollo.
The black and blue finished the minor rounds third on the ladder and were faced with three must-win finals if they were to secure the crown.
They did so, with their final victory a 3-0 result over Apollo in Sunday’s grand final clash, which handed Inter its third consecutive A Grade premiership.
Hosted by Gambier Centrals, the weather was favourable for most of the day, but the heavens opened up during the senior decider, adding further challenge to the anticipated match.
As expected, the game began as an arm wrestle, with both teams leaving nothing in reserve as they flexed their muscles.
With opportunities at both ends, eventually a clever through ball from Inter’s Dan Bronca found captain Christian Cella on the run and he chipped it in to give the reigning premiers the early lead.
That was a turning point in the half, as just two minutes later Bronca was on the end of another close attempt, which was then almost headed into goal by Sam Bueti on the rebound.
However, it went just high and the scuffle for control continued.
Apollo was pressing the goals and had several opportunities of its own, but the final touch eluded it for the duration of the game.
Inter youngster Tyler Michielan tore up the wing in the first half and continued to do so until he was forced off with muscle tightness in the second term.
Inter’s second goal came about 20 minutes after the first, when a scuffle in the box saw Matt Bueti apply the finishing touch and hand his team a 2-0 lead.
From there Inter appeared to have the ascendancy and finished the opening half with momentum.
However, coach Tony D’Agostino said he knew they would have to start the second half as strong as they finished the first if they were to stay ahead.
“I said to them at half time that 2-0 is always a terrible score because the other team will always think they have a chance,” he said.
“If they score one, then they are only one behind.
“It is a really dangerous score, so we had to go out and see if we could get the very first goal.
“I said if we can’t get that first goal, then let’s defend well and stop them from scoring.”
Apollo opened the second half strongly and pushed hard for a goal, but daring defensive efforts from Ricky McRobert turned back several attempts.
Nick Morony was also solid and provided a link through the midfield, rightly earning the best-on-ground honours as judged by the referees on the day.
The last line of defence was strong as well, as goal keeper Brayden May had reliable hands to prevent Apollo from chipping back the deficit.
Inter had its chances too, but for the majority of the second half the scoreboard was untouched.
That was until Bueti scored his second around the midpoint of the term to ice the game.
From there the match was never in doubt and Inter cruised to a third consecutive grand final victory.
After a broken up start to the season between byes, a postponed game and several key player losses, to say D’Agostino was pleased with the result is an understatement.
He said those factors made the win all the more sweet on his return to the coaching role after a season off.
“I said this year it was nothing about me, it was about these boys and what they can achieve,” D’Agostino said.
Losing three of its four backmen from the 2018 premiership side, along with Patrick Wilondja to Apollo and a season-ending injury to defender Lachlan Charlton in week one of finals, Inter’s depth had been put to the test.
However, D’Agostino was confident in the squad and knew if they could put themselves in the right position they would stand a chance in the post season.
“It was maybe that night game against Centrals where I thought everything started to work again and we started to build that momentum,” he said.
“We worked on a couple of different structures as a team and it just came good.
“We thought we would finish third and we thought if we finished in that top three we would be in with a chance.
“Every game was going to be a grand final from then on and we did it – we fought it out and improved every week.”
D’Agostino said it was difficult to pick a player who did not play well on Sunday and he was impressed with every effort on the big day.
“I thought Ricky McRobert was outstanding,” he said.
“Sam (Bueti), Skip (Skayper Johnson) out wide and Christian Cella was superb through that first half.
“The service he (Cella) was giving us going forward was giving us those opportunities.
“Dan Bronca was also brilliant – he gave us what we needed up forward and he dropped back and won those hard balls when we had to.”
The Under 17’s who backed up from a tough game earlier in the day also impressed and the future is certainly bright over at the black and blue camp.
For Apollo the coming seasons also promise reward, as its young talents were the highlight on Sunday.
Adam Walker was solid in defence, while Franco Kwibuka and Harry Wilson were strong down both sides of the ground.
Teams will now look forward to 2020, where another tight competition can be expected at the top tier of the competition.