It’s been eight years since Newfoundland hosted the Challenge Cup senior men’s national soccer tournament and Tyler Forsey is hoping the Mount Pearl First Choice Haircutters squad will be part of that action when it begins in October.
But to get a chance to compete for the national title, Forsey and his fellow Haircutters will have to trim the three other Newfoundland teams vying for the provincial Challenge Cup title in St. Lawrence this weekend.
Holy Cross Kirby Group is holding first place in the league standings going into the provincial championship with Mount Pearl close behind. The St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians secured third place, while the Feildians occupy fourth spot. As host for the national tourney, Newfoundland will get to place two teams in the national event, the winner of this weekend’s provincial championship and the runnerup.
"We are confident, but we’re not over confident," says Forsey, who was the Haircutters’ leading scorer this past season. "We respect the other teams, but we don’t fear them."
Forsey admits "The favourite is whoever the defending champion is, so that would be Holy Cross in this case." But, he adds, "You can’t take the throne until you dethrone somebody else."
That’s exactly what Forsey is hoping for this weekend, which would be a nice cap to a effortful season of play by the Mount Pearl squad.
The Mount Pearl First Choice Haircutters struggled at the start of the season, suffering four losses and managing three tied games. But they turned it around with a 14 game winning streak that only ended with the final game of the season, against Holy Cross, who edged the Haircutters 1-0.
"After a bit of a shaky start we strung it together," says Forsey. "It took all 23 guys in the room to sort that out. Everybody bonded together. A lot of people outside the dressing room had quit on us in the early stages, but we never."
Forsey said the players and coaching staff are really happy to be going into this weekend’s play as one of the top two teams. As the first and second place teams, Holy Cross and Mount Pearl play in the first game on Friday, September 2 with the winner earning a berth into the final game Sunday. The loser of the opening match gets to play the winner of the game between Feildians and St. Lawrence on Saturday for a second chance to make the final.
"Our team is sitting pretty good for the final weekend, and it would be a tough game with any team that you play," Forsey says. "We’re playing on natural grass (too) so I think that it’ll be an added bit of spice to it, which will be nice."
Forsey, who grew up in Mount Pearl and played ball with the minor association here until he was 18, says he is excited to be back this season. "I just wanted to return here and wear the black and yellow," he says. "If there is one place you would want to win a championship, it’s at home."
After five years playing in other leagues, principally at the varsity level, Forsey, now 23, brings some depth of experience to the team. He is happy with the team’s coaching moves and positive changes. Forsey gives a lot of credit for the team’s success to his coach and teammate, Andrew Murphy. He moved Forsey from centre striker to left midfield this season. The new position was "kind of what the team needed," Forsey allows. "So I went there no questions asked, and I just try to do the job that coach Murphy set for me to do."
Forsey’s intentions are to give it 100 per cent and do the best he can to help the team, whether it’s setting up opportunities for teammates or scoring goals himself.
With guidance from the seasoned veterans and the fiery enthusiasm of the young players, Forsey expects this coming weekend to turn out well for Mount Pearl.
"Through all the trials and tribulations, we gave ourselves the right opportunity to get where we are right now," Forsey says. "We took care of business and dealt with what we were faced with up until this point. Now there’s one last mountain to climb, but it’s the biggest one of the year. So we’ve got to get our hiking boots on and get to the top, or our soccer cleats in this case."