Sunderland Deaf AFC team on the spot to win EDF League title

Sunderland Deaf AFC manager Scott Garthwaite, centre, celebrates winning the England Deaf Football League title. Picture by Jason Steadman.
Sunderland Deaf AFC manager Scott Garthwaite, centre, celebrates winning the England Deaf Football League title. Picture by Jason Steadman.
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Sunderland Deaf AFC are celebrating being crowned champions of the England Deaf Football League - after winning a penalty shoot-out.

Sunderland became the only team to with the league title three times in a row since its formation 15 years ago.

Northern League champions Sunderland faced Southern League champions Barnet Deaf FC, in a clash in Nottingham to determine who would be crowned the overall EDF League winners.

Sunderland drew first blood against a Barnet side, which had previously won 17 games in a row and were undefeated this season, through an Andy Reay penalty after Stuart Cameron was brought down in the box.

Ryan Thompson fired Sunderland into a 2-0 lead from outside the area when he latched on to goalkeeper Cameron Sweeney’s long kick, via a flick on from Robert Keegan.

However, Barnet showed great spirit to fight back to score two late goals and take the game into extra time.

With no more score, the lottery of penalties loomed for both teams.

Cameron Sweeney saved Barnet’s first penalty and up stepped Andy Reay, Ryan Thompson, Brian Bell, Alex Brown and Robert Keegan to score all of Sunderland’s penalties to secure a 5-4 win and the EDF title.

Sunderland must go again against Barnet on May 14 (2.30pm), at Chester City’s ground, this time for the England Deaf Football Cup.

Scott Garthwaite, in his first season as Sunderland Deaf AFC manager, said: “We have one more final – the EDF Challengers Cup – which is the biggest trophy in England Deaf football.

“Only three teams have won this trophy in its 15 year history - Doncaster Deaf Trust, St John’s Deaf FC and Fulham Deaf FC.

“Therefore, we are hoping to do the EDF double to round off a superb season.”

Sunderland are also celebrating after Stuart Cameron was called up to represent the Great Britain Deaf Football side for the upcoming Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey in July, while Andy Reay has also represented GB Deaf football at the Deaflympics, European Deaf Championship and World Cup.

The Deaf team also has former GB players Brian Bell and Gavin James in the team as well as GB Under-21 players Jake Rowan and Ryan Thompson.

On the future of the club, Garthwaite added: “We have lots of youth coming through, with the likes of Robert Keegan, Cameron Sweeney, Jordan Magnish, and we are looking for more deaf players in the North East for next season.

“Our aim is to win the British Deaf Football Cup, as this is the biggest trophy in Deaf football because if we win that we will be seeded to go into Deaf Champions League.”

If any deaf players, aged 16 or over, are interested in joining Sunderland Deaf AFC, contact SDAFC secretary Alex Brown on sdafc1@hotmail.com.