It is almost a year ago that Ynys Môn became an island united by football passion.
The 2019 Huws Gray Inter-Island Football Tournament, hosted by Anglesey, was a huge success in so many ways
Aside from the fact Ynys Môn won the men’s competition and the ladies broke new ground by reaching the final of theirs, the event showcased the host island in a remarkably positive way.
Tomos Wyn Jones, 17, a student at Ysgol David Hughes, Menai Bridge, covered the tournament daily and has written a comprehensive review of the showpiece for Grassroots North Wales.
On June 15, 2019, former Welsh football technical director Osian Roberts launched the unofficial 2019 inter-island football tournament in Holyhead.
Ynys Môn staged the event as the official host nation of the 2019 Island Games, Gibraltar, lacked the amount of football grounds required to stage games.
Môn took full advantage of this situation and used it as a valuable audition in their bid to host the official Island Games in 2025.
All footballers were given an item of memorabilia in the opening ceremony, before heading to the main stand at the New Stadium to have a photo taken of all teams together.
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Following the draw concluded by Osian Roberts and Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, both originally from Ynys Môn, the first game played in the men’s tournament was between channel island Jersey and the Scottish isle of Orkney.
Hosted by Llangefni Town’s Cae Bob Parry, the channel islanders certainly didn’t disappoint the crowd, routing to a 5-0 victory with 4 goals from eventual tournament top scorer Kieren Lester.
Speaking with Jersey men’s manager Martin Cassidy after the game, he referenced the great spirits of Ynys Môn as an island.
The women’s tournament got underway with hosts Ynys Môn coming up with a 3-1 victory at the New Stadium, Holyhead, over the Western Isles from Scotland. Lexi Crawley scored the first hat-trick of the tournament for Môn, and put them in early control of Group A.
Another feature game on the Sunday was Ynys Môn men’s side’s victory over the Western Isles, coming back from a goal down to win 2-1, with Mel McGinness and Liam Morris completing the comeback in front of a big crowd at Holyhead.
Other games on June 16 in the men’s tournament saw Shetland Islands’ 6-1 demolition of St Helena in Group C, and Swedish isle Hitra’s 4-2 victory over Alderney in Group B.
In the women’s tournament, the Isle of Man and Jersey played a thrilling game at Lôn Groes, with the Manx ladies coming out on top with a 3-2 triumph in this Group B clash.
Monday, June 17, 2019
All men’s sides were involved except St Helena on Monday evening, with hosts Ynys Môn facing Orkney, who were looking to recover from their heavy defeat at the hands of Jersey.
But this wasn’t the case for the Scots, as Môn were victorious 3-1 at Maes Meurig, Gwalchmai, with goals from Jay Gibbs, Mel McGinness and a Sam Jones penalty. Môn were in touching distance of the semi-finals.
Elsewhere in Group A, Jersey faced Western Isles, this time scoring an additional 2 goals by strolling to a 7-0 victory, with Lester adding another 2 to his tally,
Sol Solomon grabbed a quadruple and Karl Hinds’ penalty completed the caning.
Ynys Môn women’s team were made to wait an extra day to see if they had secured a semi final spot, as they lost to Hitra by 3 goals to 2, Kristin Jorgenson (2) and Lina Selvag scoring for the Swedish Isle.
Elsewhere, reigning men’s gold medal holders Isle of Man played their first game of the tournament, and thrashed Hitra 7-2, with Ashley Higginbotham and Furo Davies both scoring doubles for the Manx.
Three-time winners Guernsey also took their bow, edging a narrow 2-1 outcome over the Shetland Islands, with Keanu Marsh and Sam Hall scoring for the channel islanders at Cae Tŷ Cristion, Bodedern, to secure a vital 3 points in Group C.
In the women’s tournament, the Isle of Man were looking for back to back victories, and they certainly didn’t disappoint at Cae Tan Parc, pipping Gibraltar 2-1, with Kym Hicklin and Sarah Wignall securing their spot in the semi-finals.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
The final day of group stage games took place on Tuesday, with a lot at stake across both the men’s and women’s tournaments.
Ynys Môn and Jersey men went head to head in the deciding Group A match, with both sides on 6 points. Jersey had a superior goal difference advantage over the hosts.
Everything was on the line Anglesey, who knew a draw may not be enough to take them through to the semi-finals. But in front of a big crowd at Cae Bob Parry, Môn came up trumps, recording a 1-0 victory over three-time winners Jersey, thanks to a second half goal from Liam Morris.
After full-time, Jersey’s fate was not in their own hands any more, and they cruelly missed out on a semi-final spot to the Shetland Islands.
This was due to Jersey’s victory over the last-placed side in their group, Western Isles not being taken into account due to Groups B and C only containing 3 teams, where as Group A had 4.
The news couldn’t get any better for Ynys Môn, as the women’s side had also secured a semi-final spot, but not in the most comfortable fashion, as Western Isles beat Hitra 1-0.
This meant that all three teams had 3 points at the end of the group stage, but Môn had the best goal difference of +1, compared with Hitra’s 0 and Western Isles’ -1.
Elsewhere, the Isle of Man’s men’s side progressed to the semis, as the Manx triumphed 6-1 against channel islanders Alderney, with Lee Gale and Sean Doyle scoring a brace each.
Guernsey claimed the final last four position by strolling to victory against debutants St Helena 9-0, with Will Fazakerly scoring a hat-trick, Marlon Jardim with a pair.
In the women’s tournament, Jersey put a smile back on their islanders’ faces as they made the semis by beating Gibraltar 6-2, Megan Wood at the double for the ladies from the English Channel.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Only the women’s fifth-placed play-off game and both semi-finals took place this day.
Western Isles whipped Gibraltar 5-0 in the battle for fifth, with Mary and Beth Macleod both scoring their second goals of the tournament.
The first semi final was at Lôn Groes, between the Group B winners Isle of Man and runners-up of Group A, Hitra.
After a closely fought opening 25 minutes, the Manx blew away the opposition 5-1, with Sarah Wignall scoring her third goal of the tournament, putting her second in the golden boot chart.
At Lôn Bach, Amlwch, the locals were queuing in their numbers to watch hosts Ynys Môn face Group B runners up Jersey, for a place in the final at the New Stadium.
In a closely fought match, Lexi Crawley scored the sole goal to set up the final between the Isle of Man and Môn.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
The first semi final of the day was contested by the winners of Group B and current gold medal holders Isle of Man and Group C toppers Guernsey.
One of the games of the tournament saw Guernsey reach Friday’s final with a 3-2 success, as Matt Loaring striking twice, and the ever-consistent Will Fazakerly nabbing the decisive winner for the channel islanders.
But the locals were only waiting for one game – Group A winners Ynys Môn and the best second-placed side of the group stage Shetland Isles.
Cae Bob Parry was full to capacity, red flares took to the air – such passion was unheard of in a game on the island in recent memory.
All were in fine voices and rooting the men from Môn towards their first final since victory in 1999.
Anglesey advanced with a 2-1 win, Sam Jones with a brace, Ronan Grant replying.
Elsewhere in the day, the 5th, 7th and 9th placed play off games took place. Results:
• 9th Placed play off – Western Isles 2-1 St Helena
• 7th Placed Play Off – Orkney 1-2 Alderney
• 5th Placed Play Off – Jersey 3-1 Hitra
Friday, June 21, 2019
After a week of intense, high performance football, it all came down to two games – the men’s and women’s finals at the New Stadium, Holyhead.
Before the main events, the bronze medal game for the men’s tournament was played at Maes Meurig, with the Isle of Man taking all their anger out on the Shetland Isles following their 3-2 semi final defeat with a 5-0 victory over the Scots, Rhys Oates scoring a treble.
In the women’s bronze medal match, Jersey pipped Hitra 3-2 at Lôn Bach.
All attention was now focused on Holyhead, and the women’s final took place first in front of a massive crowd which included large groups of school children cheering on their heroes.
The women from Môn did not get off to a brilliant start, falling two goals behind before the break, with the ever-prominent Sarah Wignall and an Ellie Gawne penalty putting the Manx in full control.
Môn came back in the second half, pushing the Manx defence further and further back, and with 20 minutes to go, 16-year old Catrin Evans scored a crucial goal for the hosts, and gave them hope of getting another.
Although they pressed for an equaliser, the hosts simply ran out of time, and the Isle of Man were crowned gold medalists of the 2019 inter-island women’s football tournament, going one better than in 2011 and 2017.
Ynys Môn’s women could hold their heads up high, after performing brilliantly throughout the tournament, making every single islander proud of them, and many now idolising them.
Lexi Crawley of Amlwch Town finished up Golden Boot winner with five goals. She did take part in the final but was struggling with an injury. Had she been at full pelt, who knows what might have happened.
Môn could still walk away with a gold medal, as the men’s side faced Guernsey in front of a record crowd for the stadium of 3,020 spectators.
The final off to the worst possible start for the hosts, as Keanu Marsh fired Guernsey into the lead.
Môn were rather frustrated in the 15th minute following a controversial decision from the referee. Frank Tobin from Guernsey was denied a clear goal with his arm on the goal-line, but Sam Jones converted the loose ball to make it 1-1.
However, the ref had blown for a penalty earlier, and Tobin received his marching orders. Sam Jones took on the spot kick, but was denied by ‘keeper James Hamon.
The hosts would have been further behind but for another penalty save – a magnificent effort from Paul Pritchard, who made several other amazing stops in the final.
Môn came back stronger in the second half, and Liam Morris yet again came up with an important goal for the hosts, a stunning volley from a Jordan Taylor assist in the 67th minute.
The hosts were now in full control of the final, and had several chances to edge ahead, but Hamon stood firm in the Sarnians net.
But Môn got what they deserved in the 84th minute, as Mel McGinness’s powerful one on one effort found the back of the net, sparking amazing celebrations. Môn held on and when the referee blew the final whistle, the crowd erupted, and the inevitable pitch invasion followed.
The hosts will look back on the tournament with great memories, with the men’s side winning gold and the ladies achieving silver.
Môn should feel immensely proud and organisers all applauded for all their hard work, hopefully ensuring the whole games will be coming to Anglesey in 2025! Football surely came home in June 2019!