Last Sunday the women gave their all on the pitch.
The Cayman Islands Football Association FA Cup final between Women United and Elite Sports Club went to two extra sessions to find a winner.
United would eventually come out on top 1-0.
The T.E. McField Sports Centre (aka the Annex) saw fans stuck to their seats for some two and a half hours before Brianna Hydes became a hero.
The spectators knew how much effort the girls gave from start to finish as they let out a long, appreciative applause at the end.
But the people who understand how much the girls battled on the pitch better than anyone were the coaches.
One of them was Elite head coach Greg Ebanks. The West Bay native son, who also endured his men’s team losing on the day, spoke about the pride he had in his women’s team.
‘I’m really pleased, I couldn’t ask for any more. I’m extremely proud of my girls. Women United train a lot harder and the core of the team is national team players.
‘Considering the training we did I’m pleased we took them as far as we did.’
Women United head coach Bobby McLaren has in only two years taken a fledgling club to become the most dominant side in women’s football.
Their FA Cup triumph was their second in as many years and the side has not suffered a loss since they formed two years ago.
Understandably, McLaren was elated to come out on top again. ‘It’s really a good feeling to successfully defend our cup. The competition improved from last year and we came out and got the job done. I truly feel blessed.’
McLaren went on to talk about how Elite made his team work for repeat glory.
‘Elite came with a game plan to stop us from scoring. They defended well throughout. I give credit to them for their preparation. Courtisha (Ebanks, the Elite goal-keeper) was the difference and she was excellent in goal.’
For McLaren the match came down to who wanted to win most.
‘It all came down to desire. The girls worked hard and went all out this season. We especially worked hard on set pieces during the year and we made it a point to focus on before the match. I wanted Brianna to go up for set pieces because she made good things happen. In the dying moments she came up big for us.’
Ebanks on the other hand felt the game could have gone either way. ‘The game saw a lot of opportunities that both teams could not capitalize on.’
Both coaches agreed everyone on their squads came together and played with great spirit.
‘Overall it was a team effort,’ McLaren said. ‘Our ace striker Shenel Gall – who carries the burden of our scoring – pulled a groin muscle in the first half and she was a non-factor in the game.
‘:But everyone stepped up, everyone stuck to the game plan and kept their heads up. Everyone played a great game.’
‘Quite a few players stepped up and gave their all,’ Ebanks said. ‘Courtisha (who was also the game’s MVP) was obviously outstanding in goal.’
Another Elite player who gave a particularly gutsy performance was defender Jessica Ebanks.
She came into the game with an ankle injury from Elite’s semi-final match. Nevertheless, in front of many Elite supporters like her husband and local sportsman Kevin Maxwell, she played the entire first half in superb fashion.
Greg Ebanks explained his decision for starting Jessica.
‘Even though Jessica was injured I had her start to see how she could handle the game versus putting her on and then taking her off as a sub. Her injury took away from her speed but she played well.’
One of the crucial facts of the game that opened the door for a United win was Elite being reduced to nine players.
Ebanks spoke about the impact the red cards had on the game.
‘The red cards took away from our attacking performance. We could have contested more and the lack of players put a strain on the backline.’
Ultimately the match has the coaches and their respective teams heading in different directions for the off-season.
‘Our team motto is with God all things are possible,’ McLaren said. ‘The sky is the limit for us. The average age of the team is 16 and I want to start recruiting younger players for next season.
‘The idea is I want to keep the team enthusiastic about winning. All in all the future is bright for us.’
‘Elite needs more manpower,’ Ebanks said. ‘More coaches need to come forward. Elite is one of the biggest football clubs in Cayman and I’m running too many programmes.
‘I want to invite more coaches to come forward. Whether they’re former coaches or players I’m simply looking for people with good qualities.’