The Cayman Islands Gaelic Football season got under way this week in style as the annual Digicel Mixed 9s tournament took place at the Rugby Club, South Sound.
Ten teams fielding both men and women competed for the coveted Pete O’Neill Memorial Trophy with Digicel looking to retain the trophy that they won with some ease last year.
With the teams split into two groups of five and only two progressing from each group, every game was vital.
Early omens were promising for Digicel as they beat newcomers Coconut Joe’s in the first game of the morning.
With the Coconut Joe’s team perhaps still feeling the effects of a night at their sponsor’s bar Lisa Heavey made hay with a number of good scores.
Next up were legal eagles Maples who held off a misfiring HSBC to win 4 – 0 with Trevor Murphy proving a handful for the bankers.
As the morning progressed the contenders became visible with UBS looking strong and the always competitive Aussie Gold team scoring an early and slightly fortunate win over the unlucky Ragball Rovers.
It was to prove a bad day for the Ger Cohen led Ragball Rovers who despite the best efforts of Niamh Devlin and Lisa McGinty won more friends than points as they succumbed to three heavy losses.
Eventual semi-finalists Tommy’s All Stars were put to the sword by an improving Coconuts team by a score of 4-2 and the Fluor team led by Martine Fitzgerald got their campaign off to a good start with another defeat for the Ragball Rovers whose goalkeeper was subject to some controversial roughhouse treatment from the exuberant Fluor forwards.
Surprise package Maples led by stalwart Scott McDonald put themselves in a great position to qualify after a tight win over Coconut Joe’s but still needed to rely on a favour from Digicel in their match against Tommy’s All Stars to progress.
Needing a win to progress themselves, Tommy’s All Stars led by husband and wife duo Mick and Lisa Kehoe scraped past Digicel in another titanic encounter with Mick rolling back the years with some vintage scores much to the disappointment of the Maples team who had retired to the pavilion for refreshments.
In the other section newcomers HSBC, led by Shane Delaney and Owen Dinall steadily improved over the day with a narrow defeat at the hands of PWC proving some encouragement for next year.
PWC featuring local soccer stars Sophia Dilbert and Alan Purvis acquitted themselves well with a fighting draw against the strong Flour team which was to be the highlight of their day.
Once the dust had settled the semi-finalists were UBS against Tommy’s All Stars and Digicel against Aussie Gold.
In a hotly contested first semi UBS proved too strong for Tommy’s All Stars and finished 9-6 winners.
With Olive McDonagh and Declan Daly proving to be a lethal partnership up front the aging all stars bowed out despite six points from the Kehoe’s combined.
The second semi final saw Digicel take an early six point lead through the efforts of Jim McIlvanna and surprise package Caoire Kennedy but this was to prove not enough as a second half fight back from the Aussie’s against the tiring legs of the Digicel team, now bereft of injured top scorer Lisa Heavey, had no answers to the questions posed by Emma Santiago’s dancing feet and John Taylor’s accurate boot.
The final between the strong UBS side and Aussie Gold proved a one sided affair as the tiring and misfiring Aussies failed to get on the score sheet and UBS producing some sumptuous scores from the foot of Colm Moynihan and Mark Murray to win 10-0.
UBS captain Micheal O’Connilighe said: ‘It was a great day’s sport and I hope everyone enjoyed it, we certainly did. I know that the event is supposed to be a fun event to kick start the season but someone has to win it and why not us?’
Event organiser and club chairman Brian Hurley said: ‘There was a great turnout and we have had a lot of interest from players who now wish to compete in the league season which commences in February.
‘I would like to thank all the club captains for getting their teams involved and playing in the right spirit today. Congratulations to UBS who were worthy winners and commiserations to the other teams who can come back next year for another shot at the title.’
Gaelic media rep Lisa McGinty said: ‘We will be having a training afternoon and would encourage as many as possible to come down to the rugby ground and have a kick around and learn the basics of the game from our seasoned ‘pros’ and also play a few games.
‘It’s a great opportunity to both try out the game and to practice a few skills as we will be starting the league the following week.
‘There is no charge and all are welcome. We will also be having some practice games following on from the skills training.’
This Orientation day will also assist the committee in picking the ’09 Digicel League Teams (4 Mens & 4 Ladies). The Digicel League will commence on Sunday, February 1.