Ipswich earns state respect in 'amazing' weekend
SO close but so far to an Ipswich football triple treat.
The defending state champions gave their all but couldn't hold out National Premier League rivals Olympic in this afternoon's hotly contested duel at Yeronga.
Western Pride's 2-1 loss ended their hopes of back-to-back grand final triumphs.
However, Pride's first team earnt plenty of respect as the Ipswich club celebrates two wonderful achievements on Saturday.
Pride's under 18s were first through to the NPL grand final after holding out a determined Brisbane Roar side 2-0 at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
Pride's under 20s also showed plenty of commitment, beating Brisbane Roar 3-2 at the same venue on Saturday night.
Being a promising coach and under-20 player himself, Jordan Manning was thrilled with how both teams handled the pressure, especially after some major injury challenges this season.
"We're pretty stoked,'' Manning said, having coached both teams and appreciating help from Pride senior team player Hayden Mchenery.
"We've worked a long time to get ourselves in that sort of position and just happy we were able to get ourselves into the big game next week. Happy for both squads.''
In today's top team semi-final, Pride led 1-0 at halftime through another superb Joe Duckworth strike.
In another torrid battle, the home side scored twice after the break to advance to this year's grand final.
Head coach Reg Davani had nothing but praise for his players after another gallant effort, almost making back-to-back grand finals.
"It's been a privilege being a part of this group,'' Davani said, having taken over from former head coach and mentor Graham Harvey mid-season.
"I can't fault them.
"Today they were amazing again. We just couldn't keep them out.
"I hope we've earnt a bit of respect as well because we've shown everyone around the football fraternity that this wasn't a fluke.
"One of our targets was to make sure we got back to finals football again and we've done that, with all the obstacles we've faced this year.
"They've done more than enough to earn respect with what they've faced this year.
"I'm so proud of them.''
After Pride's first team met every test this season, the clubs under 18 and under 20 teams will both play competition leaders Brisbane City in this weekend's grand finals.
Manning welcomes the challenge after seeing what his teams produced in both semi-finals.
Among the courageous Pride players was under-18 midfielder Griffin Trevett-Lyall, who scored his first goal of the season in the semi-final.
After receiving a nasty head knock a few weeks ago, he got strapped up and produced a superb effort against Roar.
"Griff had a rough year,'' Manning said.
"He started the year with injury then came back and got kicked in the head the other week and had a big split.
"For him to come back the way he had and score a goal was very pleasing.
"The injury he had was quite severe. It could have really knocked his confidence but he just kept flying through every-thing and he got his reward yesterday. It was a super goal.''
In the under-20 semi-final, Pride were cruising towards victory leading 3-0 before Roar had a player sent off in the second half and scored two goals.
"They sort of took the mentality that 'we were going to go for it' and throw everything at us,'' Manning said.
"It took us a while to stem the flow but once we figured out what they were trying to do, we were able to stop it pretty quick and make sure we got the job done in the end.''
Pride goalscorer Tyran Paz was another of the team's young guns to finish the season strongly despite having injury setbacks.
"Ty has come back from a lot of adversity,'' Manning said.
"He's had injury after injury the last few years and for him to come back has been pretty good for us.
"The last few weeks, he's really hit his straps and picked up form.
"It's good for him to get his reward for all his hard work and overcoming all his obstacles along the way.''
Manning said seeing how both teams responded to the late pressure was pleasing.
"The Roar are very brave when they play their style of football,'' he said.
"Our boys have really come a long way this year in both age groups and really developed and learnt how to stand up.
"We learnt across the season how to deal with the way they play and luckily for us, the result went the right way in the end.''
All that highlighted Pride's youthful talent.
"We've got one of the youngest teams in the league,'' Manning said.
"We've got a lot of boys that are still age eligible for the 18s. There's only three boys that are 20.
"So for us to be able to be where we are and challenge where we are, it's pretty positive.''
NPL semi-final: Olympic 2 (Alex Smith 2) def Western Pride 1 (Joe Duckworth) at Goodwin Park, Yeronga.
NPL U20 semi-final: Western Pride 3 (Tyran Paz 2, Alex Parsons) def Brisbane Roar 2 at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
NPL U18 semi-final: Western Pride 2 (Griffin Trevett-Lyall, Damian Videla) def Brisbane Roar 0 at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.