Despite the cold, the ‘Blue and Black Army’ marched onto another victory at Strangford.
Daire Larkin scored both goals in the first half, both into the bottom left hand corner.
The first came from a pin-point pass from Ishmail Obikoya which beat the defenders and allowed Daire to slot clinically into the bottom left hand corner.
The second found the same spot. This time Ward Farrell was provider, sending in a cross which fell beautifully for Daire, who again made no mistake and the keeper could only pick it out of the net.
If anything Aquinas could, and should, have added to their tally to put the game beyond doubt in the first period.
Despite contesting well, the final ball tended to fall short and kept the North Belfast men in the game.
At the other end, the defence of Ishmail, Steven Quinn, Ryan Shaw and Oran Boyle put in a really solid shift throughout the game. This was especially needed in the second half after St Mary’s pulled one back to make it 2-1. A rocket of a shot looked to be going in but keeper Luke O’Sullivan miraculously got his fingers to the ball.
Unfortunately, the ball struck the post and as luck, or the lack of, would have it the ball rebounded straight into the forward’s path. He instinctively blasted it past the keeper who could do nothing about it this time.
St Mary’s heads were up after this and Aquinas had to weather the storm for a while in the second half.
Twice the North Belfast outfit could have turned the game around but twice centre half Steven Quinn pulled off two superbly timed sliding tackles just as the attacker for St Mary’s was about to pull the trigger to keep Aquinas ahead. ACT MOTM: Steven Quinn.
Aquinas: Luke O’Sullivan, Steven Quinn, Damien Magee, Ethan Carleton, Michael Close, Ryan Shaw, Lorcan Fitzsimmons, David Connolly, Ruairi Lynch, Ronan McLernon, Methembye Khumalo, Oran Boyle, Rory Cullen, Ishmail Obikoya, Paul Armstrong, Ward Farrell, Samuele Quattromano.
Despite the final scoreline, both teams started nervously in this first encounter between them.
The deadlock was broken after ten minutes when Michael Close slipped a pass from the left hand side to Methembye Khumalo who slotted it past the spread-eagled Shankill keeper.
Even minutes later, a Shankill attack saw Aquinas keeper Luke O’Sullivan pull off a finger tip diving save to his left to steer the ball around the post.
This proved a wake up call to the Blue ’n’ Blacks.
Daire Larkin converted a cross from Ward Farrell to make it 2-0 after 23 minutes and when Michael Close was pushed in the back in the penalty box Ethan Carleton stepped up and calmly blasted the resultant penalty into the roof of the net just minutes before the break.
In the second half the flood gates really opened.
Ward Farrell skipped past two players and slotted past the keeper.
Two minutes later Farrell pulled the ball back for Samuele Quattromano to side foot in the fifth goal of the day.
The sixth goal was the pick of the bunch.
Oran Boyle, easily 25 yards out, let rip with a low shot that went rifling into the bottom right hand corner, flying past an outstretched keeper as it bulged into the back of the net.
Goal seven was a superb solo effort from Steven Quinn who set off on a mazy run before beating the keeper for his first goal of the season.
Boyle was back in the picture again for goal eight.
Aquinas’ rampant pressure forced a free-kick out right.
Oran Boyle stood over it and curled the ball over the goalkeeper and into the side of the net.
Rory Cullen completed the rout with one of those specials that had ‘top corner’ written all over it.
Meanwhile at the other end Ishmall Obikoya, Ryan Shaw, Oran Boyle and Steven Quinn kept the Shankill forwards at bay.
Aquinas’ pace at the back definitely prevented a couple of Shankill opportunities with Ishmall, in particular, clearing up everything.
John Toner and Lorcan Fitzsimmons played their part when they came on in the second half as did Damien Magee and Rory Cullen. Indeed, Damien Magee was very unlucky not to add his name to the ever expanding scoresheet as he turned the Shankill defence inside out only to see the Shankill keeper pull off some fantastic saves.
AQUINAS: Luke O’Sullivan, Steven Quinn, Damien Magee, Ethan Carleton, Michael Close, Ryan Shaw, John Toner, Lorcan Fitzsimmons, David Connolly, Phelim Lennon, Ruairi Lynch, Ronan McLernon, Methembye Khumalo, Oran Boyle Rory Cullen, Ishmail Obikoya, Paul Armstrong, Ward Farrell, Samuele Quattromano.