Domestic action heating up in Cayman Islands

This season’s Cayman Islands Premier League is reaching its end, and there is plenty to dissect as things heat up at top and bottom…

It’s true that times are looking pretty bleak for the Cayman Islands national side (above) – without any purposeful fixtures imminent and no real desire to make strides – but it’s quite the opposite in the domestic league.

Founded in 1980, the CIFA National Premier League (Cayman Islands Football Association) has been in establishment for just over 30 years. Although it doesn’t make giant waves across the football radar (with lack of financial strength and global coverage it’s hardly surprising), it still has the ability to conjure up some excellent matches and sparkling players.

Bodden Town have enjoyed a fabulous season under the tutelage of manager Elbert McLean. The club have a four-point advantage at the summit of the table and thanks to the masterful goals of talismanic forward Dwayne Wright, they’ve been rendered firm favourites to clinch the title.

The statistics are impressive: Town’s home record is the best in the division with seven wins, one draw and one defeat. McLean’s men have scored the second most goals and conceded the second least amount. They have won their last three outings and are on course – with four matches of the campaign remaining – to win their first ever league championship.

Bodden Town are firm favourites to clinch the title having enjoyed a fabulous season

It’s all the more startling when you consider Bodden Town finished 3rd last term, a significant six points adrift of top spot. The team has progressed drastically just in the space of a year and it pays credit to their work ethic and determination to better themselves.

But perhaps most astonishingly the club have had to bounce back from such traumatic news that last summer former Bodden player Gerome Graham (below) passed away. In June last year, he collapsed during what was described as a “kick around” and despite the desperate help of surrounding teammates he failed to make it. It understandably hit the club and everyone involved with football in the Cayman Islands hard.

CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb told the press: “It is with deep sadness and regret that I express my sincerest condolences to the family of Gerome Graham. Gerome was a valued member of the Bodden Town Football Club and the Cayman Islands National Team and will be deeply missed.”

But it appears to have acted as a springboard to make the Bodden players more hungry for success and make their colleague and friend proud. If they win the title at the end of the season it would be a truly fitting way to honour Graham and his family.

Meanwhile, Scholars International are close behind in second place. They have won the Cayman Island’s premier trophy more than anyone else and were brilliant last season when they crowned champions for the eighth time.

Few clubs have sufficient structure but Scholars are lucky enough to have their own chairman, Clime Glidden Jr., and are the wealthiest outfit in all of the island’s football pyramid. They are the only side who have netted more goals than Bodden (the most in the league with 49) and conceded less (the least in the league with 10).

So it speaks volumes about just how good Bodden have had to be to still be ahead in the title race. Scholars’ defence is the sternest (they also conceded the least last season, too, with 15 goals let in) and in 27-year-old Cayman Islands international goalkeeper Jermaine Brown, they have the best shot stopper in the land.

Scholars International have scored the most in the league (49) and conceded the least amount (10)

Antinio Smith’s troops have plenty of firepower upfront, too. The electric Nahun Rodriguez has 12 goals to his name while Carson Fagan and David McLaughlin both have a respectable four each. This team is used to winning silverware. This team is the most illustrious in the Cayman Islands. Yet in Bodden Town they have found their match and it will be an exhilarating finish to see who ends up this year’s victors.

Elite SC, meanwhile, haven’t gave up hope of catching the top two up just yet. Sitting on 35 points in 3rd position and boasters of the best away record in the division – their last defeat was in late February to Scholars. One thing you are always guaranteed with Elite is end-to-end matches, though.

Due to their defensive fragility and midfield three – games concerning Gregory Ebanks’ side are always very open. It makes for spectacular viewing and their 4-5 win away from home last month – in which Hank Parchment, third in the leading top scorers chart, completed a fine hat-trick – is a prime example.

Elite finished in a strong 2nd last campaign and previous to that secured the championship. With a slightly beleaguered squad this season, they have been off the boil in comparison to the top two. For all their togetherness and aesthetically pleasing football, they lack that extra bit of quality to make that step up to top dogs.

Outside the top three, it’s still as exciting. In 4th is George Town SC, a solid and consistent side whose golden years were in the late 1990s. They have become accustomed to mid-table mediocrity and rarely look in a perilous position at any stage of the season. Ricky Seymour’s men look set to finish safe from relegation once more which, in all honesty, is all the supporters want.

Elite boast best away record in the division and haven’t gave up on chasing the top two just yet

The squad has a nice balance to it, too. There is a strong Jamaican contingency (five in total) within the setup whose natural speed and wonderful athleticism compliment Seymour’s counter-attacking approach tremendously. Midfield creator Fabian Malcolm – arguably the brightest Jamaican out of the bunch – has been very effective scoring four times this season.

Elsewhere, Academy SC look too far behind in 5th to keep up with the top four. By their low standards they have done exceptionally well to amass a total of 18 points so far given they were promoted from the second tier last year.

Their home form needs to improve, though, as six of their eight defeats in total have came in their own backyard. If they want to move well clear of the relegation places, they must turn their home stadium into a fortress.

Cayman Athletic are three points behind 6th with 15 points. This is their second consecutive campaign in the top-flight having earned promotion in 2011. They have the fifth best defensive record (33 goals let in) and are the only side not to draw a single game this season.

Athletic only need one more victory to surpass their total points tally from last year when they got 17 points, so all in all it’s been a year of consolidation for them. Plus, in 20-year-old attacker Raheem Robinson they have a very promising prospect. A nimble, agile individual and deft finisher who already has represented the Cayman Islands on three occasions (all in World Cup qualifiers).

North Side SC are languishing – as expected – in 7th place. They have scored a decent 21 times but leaked too many goals, usually in a sloppy fashion. The team have no chance of catching up Athletic – eight points adrift – and without any guile in midfield or leadership at the back they look destined to head into a relegation play-off against the runners-up of the First Division.

Cayman Athletic’s Raheem Robinson looks a promising prospect. Nimble, agile and a deft finisher

And finally in last place is Tigers. It’s fair to say they have endured a horrid season in every sense of the word. 13 defeats, three draws and zero wins recorded. Club coach Oscar Hernandez has had it hard, making do with limited resources and a group of players on low confidence levels.

I suppose there was some rest bite for them last weekend, mind, as they drew 0-0 with Elite which was completely unexpected. They are already relegated and will be dogging it out in the second division next season.

It’s a great shame as they finished mid-table in the 2011-12 campaign and no-one predicted them to get such a hammering this time around. Fewest goals converted and (no surprise) most goals let in. Hernandez will need to rejuvenate his players for what lies a very tough period ahead.

With four match days left to go for most teams (bar the odd game in hand), the climax to this year’s Cayman Islands Premier League is as dramatic and rousing as ever. Will Bodden Town hold on to clinch their first ever domestic title? Or will Scholars International cause a late shock? And just who will finish the league’s top goalscorer? All will be revealed.

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