The Channel Islands claimed both gold medals after an absorbing week of football competition at the NatWest Island Games, with Jersey's women and Guernsey's men triumphing in the gold medal matches on the final day of competition.
Men's Football - Group Stage
With only one team qualifying from each of the four groups of four teams in the men's competition, some tight contests were in prospect. In Group A Greenland and Menorca drew their opening game 2-2 and remained locked together over the remaining group games: each claimed wins over Aland and Saaremaa, but Menorca went through with a goal difference of +5 to edge Greenland (+3) out of semi-final contention.
It was a similar story in Group C, where Shetland and Isle of Wight drew their opening game 0-0 and ended the group stage with seven points each, Shetland's +8 goal difference seeing them progress ahead of the English island's +5.
While Group B saw Guernsey comfortable winners in all three of their games, scoring 12 goals and conceding only two, Group D rested on the final encounter between Jersey and the Isle of Man. Karl Hinds scored for the hosts to cancel out an early Frank Jones strike, but the Manx Men claimed their third win, and the semi-final spot, thanks to Ciaran McNulty's winner.
Men's Football - Knock-out
In the first semi-final it took Guernsey 113 minutes to get the better of Menorca in a feisty encounter at Springfield. After some physical challenges in the first half, Menorca's Victor Lebrero went too far as the players left the arena at half-time and was given a red card for his violent conduct.
The Balearic side took the lead through Izan Canet's deflected shot, but Ryan Zico Black equalised for Guernsey and Tom de la Mare grabbed the winner just as a penalty shoot-out loomed.
Guernsey's final opponents were confirmed as the Isle of Man, who defeated the Shetland Islands 3-1 in the second semi-final at Springfield. Lee Gale scored the opening Manx goal, and although the Shetlands equalised early in the second period two Frank Jones' goals settled it.
Guernsey went on to justify their status as many experts' tip for gold. After the tension of a late extra-time winner in the semi-final, the final at Springfield ended in a more comfortable 3-0 win over Isle of Man with goals from Craig Young, Ross Allen and Kieran Mahon. The Isle of Man had Dominic McGreevy sent off for a second bookable offence and had to be content with silver. The bronze medal went to Menorca who defeated Shetland Islands 1-0 at St Peter with the only goal coming thanks to a well-struck free-kick in the first half.
The placing matches in the men's event finished as follows:
5th/6th place: Greenland 2 Isle of Wight 1
7th/8th place: Jersey 1 Ynys Mon 0
9th/10th place: Aland 0 Gibraltar 0 (Aland win 6-5 on penalties)
11th/12th place: Western Isles 2 Falklands 1
13th/14th place: Saaremaa 3 Gotland 2
15th/16th place: Hitra 5 Alderney 1
Women's Football - Group Stage
The 11 entrants in the women's event were divided into three groups, with semi-final places for the group winners plus the best-placed runner-up.
Three straight wins for Aland saw them win Group A, with a 1-0 success over the Isle of Wight in the group's key match. Jersey won Group C with a 100% record after narrow wins over Greenland (3-2 with a late Jodie Botterill winner) and Hitra (2-1 with Eve Watson scoring both her side's goals). Isle of Man won Group B thanks to three straight wins, while Gotland, who lost 1-0 to the Manx ladies, did enough to claim the 'lucky loser' semi-final place.
Women's Football - Knock-out
In the first women's semi-final Jersey came from behind early on to beat Gotland 3-1 in the last four at Le Couvent. Viktoria Nygren's superb dipping free-kick put Gotland ahead, but Eve Watson's header pulled the hosts level. Catarina Andrade netted from close range just after the half-hour before Libby Barnett's penalty made it 3-1 before half-time.
The second semi-final was won by Aland, who also came back from a goal down to beat Isle of Man 2-1 at Grouville, thanks to a 78th-minute winner.
The women's final saw a first-ever appearance for Jersey's women, who struck gold thanks to Eve Watson's 36th-minute header which was enough to beat Aland 1-0 in front of a partisan home crowd of around 1,500, who celebrated wildly at the final whistle at Springfield. While Aland took the silver medal, Gotland claimed the bronze thanks to a 2-0 win over Isle of Man at St Brelade.
The placing matches in the women's event finished as follows:
5th/6th place: Isle of Wight 2 Hitra 1
7th/8th place: Western Isles 4 Guernsey 2
9th/10th place: Greenland 4 Ynys Mon 0
Words: Tom Innes - Pics: Adrian Topley, Andy Ellis, Simon Langlois, Jacqui Ranieri, Gina Socrates, Paul Watson, Dave Crocker, Tim Sayers & Matt Peach