Olympic FC became the inaugural NPL Queensland premiers on Sunday evening, defeating the Moreton Bay Jets 3-1 at Goodwin Park to claim the premiership with two matches to spare.
A brace from skipper and long-time servant Danny Byrne did the damage for Olympic as the club scooped its first top-divison title since 1979.
The seniors were looking to bounce back from their disappointing Round 19 defeat in Townsville and knew three points would put the premiership beyond their competitors’ reach, with Brisbane City trailing by 11 points prior to kick-off due to their 6-1 home loss to Sunshine Coast FC.
Few nerves were on show early despite the huge crowd and high stakes, with Moreton Bay fighting to keep their finals hopes mathematically alive.
The Jets were determined in defence as they ceded possession to an Olympic side probing for openings, which failed to come until league top-scorer Tim Smits signalled a flurry of chances with a header narrowly across goal.
Jets ‘keeper Marko Radovanovic did well to get down low and deny dangerous right-winger Jai Ingham, before Smits’ follow-up was turned onto the crossbar by a scrambling defender and Danny Byrne headed over from the recovery cross.
The series of close-calls foreshadowed the opener, though, as club captain Byrne buried a back-post finish from the accurate right-flank cross of namesake fullback Matt Byrne, handing Olympic a 1-0 lead at the break.
Just a couple of minutes after the restart it was 2-0, the skipper popping up on the right to deliver a pinpoint cross onto the head of Smits for the former Brisbane Roar striker’s 25th of the campaign.
However, Moreton Bay would ensure there was life in the match yet as powerful centre-forward Royce Brownlie lifted a classy chip over Olympic custodian Mario Aparicio from around 30 yards to cut the deficit within a minute.
The game again settled into rhythm following the early second-half action as midfielder Jake McLean and winger Matt Heath were brought on, and again it was Smits going close which pre-empted a Byrne goal.
The attacker was fed behind the Jets defence through the left channel and raced onto the bouncing ball, slamming his volley into the top far corner for his 18th and most important of the season.
It was a deserved reward for the captain, whose brace proved decisive in Olympic claiming its first silverware in his seven years at the club and the Club’s first top-division title for 34 years.
Goals: D. Byrne (43′, 71′) Smits (47′); Brownlie (48′)
Olympic FC: 1. Mario APARICIO (gk), 2. Matt BYRNE, 12. Nick EFSTATHIS, 6. Matt MUNDY, 7. Daniel CRACK, 17. Luke HOWELL, 8. Jack PETRIE, 5. Kazuya ITO, 14. Jai INGHAM, 9. Tim SMITS, 10. Danny BYRNE (c).
Subs: 23. Shannon LANCINI (gk), 13. David BOWATER (87′), 18. Jake McLEAN (63′), 15. Matt HEATH (70′).
Moreton Bay: 1. Marko RADOVANOVIC (gk), 7. James FAIRGRIEVE, 13. Mitchell SCHEUMACK, 5. Michael McEVOY, 4. Matthew SAUER, 2. Christopher MATICIC, 20. Jonathan MARRAIYA, 16. Matthew CAPELO, 8. Scot McNEIL, 9. Royce BROWNLE (c), 10. Jonny KAIMARAMA.
Subs: 21. Mitchell KIEFER (gk), 6. Samuel VALENTINE (82′), 11. Toto HOMPA (73′), 14. Shay KAJENSKI, 18. Moses JOSEPH (74′).