Photo by Chung Chow
The luck of the Irish shone on Caitlan Davie and Club Ireland Sunday.
Davie set the pace with a three-goal outing as Club Ireland outscored England 4-1 in the women's final at the 38th annual Nations Cup soccer tournament at Hugh Boyd Park.
Jimmy Caldwell, coach of the victorious Irish side which featured mainly players from the Richmond-based winter side, said it was just for Davie to enjoy such success. It was only a short while before the metro club's provincial champions that she was sidelined by injury.
"It hurt us," Caldwell said. "We lost the semis, and I think with Caitlan on board we would have won and gone to nationals again," he said.
The obvious choice as tournament MVP, Davie and her teammates seemed to get better as time went on. After kicking off with a scoreless draw versus Scotland on Friday night, Club Ireland shut out Canada 3-0 Saturday morning and then topped Italy 3-1 Sunday morning before advancing to the final.
The quality of play in the women’s division was sweet music to the ears of Jeff Wilson, who heads up the Nations Cup organizing committee.
"The Irish team was a standout in the women's division this year and I think the score in the final reflects that," he said. "But I think we're at a point now where the quality is so good throughout. It could easily be another team that stands out next year, like the Caribbean looked so good a few years ago."
In fact, Wilson said the calibre of female players at the Nations Cup has reached such a point where, not only is there is a waiting list for teams, but an over-30 division could be in the offing as soon as next season.
The quality of play is also apparent on the men's side of the draw, where Italy repeated as men's open division champions with a hard-fought 1-0 win over India.
Similar to their 1-0 win on a golden goal, also over India, in last year's final, Italy relied on a complete game to taste victory.
While Italy's vaunted back line featured the likes of John Polli and former Vancouver Whitecap Steve Kindell, Wilson said Italy is no slouch when it comes to being able to produce offence either. He noted Carlo Vasso was the tournament’s top goal scorer.
Like the women's division, Wilson lauded the quality of teams and players in the men’s open division. He said first-time entry Japan, which finally earned its way into the tournament after several previous bids, surprised many with how well it played. To qualify, new teams sometimes have to play off against each other before the tournament to win a spot in the Nations Cup.
"(Japan) won a couple of early games and as a result were in the hunt to possibly make the semis in just their first year," he said. "That’s an example of just how good the quality is."
Wilson said the high calibre of play, and the youthful legs required to keep up the pace in the open division, has led to a higher calibre in the other age groups as well.
"Even the over-52s requires you to be fit," he said. "It used to be guys would play over-45 if they just had the ability, but now they need to be playing one or two games a week as habit. The way things are trending, we maybe looking at an over-60s division one day. As long as people want to play, we'll happily try to accommodate them."
*India blanked England 1-0 in the men’s over-30 division final, India blanked Canada 1-0 in the over-38 final, Germany shut out China 2-0 in the over-45 final, and China defeated India 3-1 in the over-52 division.