East End Mystical Youth remain at the forefront of Cayman dominoes.
The country’s most successful slammers wrapped up their fourth straight championship, claiming the Cayman Islands Domino Association 2013-2014 national league. East End would defeat Island All Stars in the league finale by 19 points this month. East End ended the season with only two losses.
Brainard McLaughlin serves as club president and says winning has been a staple of the team for decades.
“We’re champs for the fourth consecutive time. Last season we only had one loss and we were undefeated before that. We have dropped a notch by losing those two games, compared to just one loss over the last three seasons. But we’re still a good bunch as we ended up being champions.”
Indeed, this year’s triumph has a different feel from previous efforts. For starters, there was considerable doubt for most of the campaign that the East End crew would prevail. The first half league table had Mystical Youth in third after their early losses while All Stars – who defeated the champs in the opening stages – and perennial contenders Archies sat ahead of them in the standings.
There was also a shake-up with the team’s management. Long-time captain Billy McLaughlin took a season off, leaving Crosby Watler to head the squad. Brainard, who doubled as vice captain, said Billy was a help, not a hindrance, to the club.
“We still have to take our hats off to Billy, he is the best manager on the Island. Crosby – a former Mystics captain – was brought in and I assisted him for the majority of games due to Billy being unavailable. Although he was not with the team this season, thanks to Billy, we didn’t engage in splitting up of partners. They’ve been playing for years, they know each other and how each other plays. From match to match, they know they need to watch the other players at all time.
“They know how each individual game within a match day is played, they understand the sport and are familiar with code as the league uses silent code. The key thing through it all is experience, it all comes back to experience.”
Aside from the high standard of success, another constant on the club has been family ties. The McLaughlin Connection features a group of cousins, which includes Brainard, while the Solomon brothers of Calvin and Barton, along with siblings Gordon and Henry Dixon, are also on the squad. Most of them have roots in East End.
Brainard, 46, says his family has been around a domino table since school days.
“The McLaughlin Connection has been the same team all these years. I’ve been playing from when I was a teenager, which translates to 20 odd years of experience. Fred, Al, Linroy and my cousin Lewis McLaughlin started playing from high school days. We’re all very together, we make it good as a family. There are no disputes, we’re always as one at the table. We don’t respond to no one or the players next to us, we make the dominoes talk. I think that helps and it should, because you’re talking about family members coming out together to win something. Not all families are like that.”
The club is now primed for the league playoffs, which are slated for next month and only feature the top four teams. Mystical Youth is scheduled to have the No. 1 seed, followed by All Stars, Archies and Singh’s Roti Shop in fourth. Bottom clubs Ultra and Eastern Star are expected to miss the postseason.
Brainard says playoff success is of little importance.
“The key thing is winning the league, you can’t compare the playoffs to the league. The league is always the biggest prize to win, it shows you have to go through every team to go on top. It’s like football, once you win the league you got it.”