St. Vincent and the Grenadines came into Saturday evening, the third day of the Windward Islands Football Association 2015 Men's Championship, in pole position. Having taken a maximum six points from their two previous wins, over Grenada and hosts Saint Lucia, the Vincy Heat needed just a draw against Dominica (on four points) to secure the title.
Instead, the Vincentians got their third win in three, beating Dominica 1-0 through a Myron Samuel strike in the 22nd minute. His fourth goal of the tournament came courtesy of a left-sided run from the competition's Most Valuable Player, Emerald 'Monkey' George, and it was enough to lift the Heat to their first sub-regional title since 1973.
There were jubilant scenes at the Philip Marcellin Grounds in Vieux Fort. The Vincentians had finished dead last when they hosted this revived four-team series two years ago. Some 24 months later, here they were singing and dancing their way through the presentation ceremony, linking hands and bowing to the 1000-strong capacity crowd.
St Vincent and the Grenadines assistant coach, Westley Charles, said: "Since early this year we have been working really hard, and we have been getting a lot of training days in. But a couple of weeks ago we got a week and a half training camp, so the boys have been getting some quality work in. And every plan we put in, they executed it."
Earlier in the tournament, St Vincent and the Grenadines beat Grenada 3-2, taking the lead for good late in the game on a Myron Samuel penalty conversion. They defeated defending champions Saint Lucia 2-1, coming from behind and eventually winning through the 22-year-old Samuel. George was the other scorer on both occasions.
St Vincent and the Grenadines are now holders of the WINFA men's and women's titles.
In the opening match on Saturday, Grenada got goals in either half from 20-year-old striker Jamal Charles to sink the home team to the bottom of the table. It was Grenada's first and only win, as both teams rang the changes, with both out of contention for the title. Charles, getting his first start, netted in the second minute and then again in the 78th.
Unsurprisingly, the champions dominated the individual awards. Having conceded three goals in the tournament, custodian Winslow McDowall was handed the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper. Samuel got the Golden Boot for most goals. George got the MVP. And the three were among eight Vincentians on the All-Tournament Team.
The team of 18 included Reginald Richardson, Roy Richards, Kevin Francis, Kyle Edwards, and Vincentian skipper Dorren Hamlet. From second-placed Grenada, Kitson Bain, Jake Rennie and Cassim Langainge made the cut. The Dominicans placed goalkeeper and captain Glenson Prince, Chad Bertrand, Randolph Peltier, Malcolm Joseph and Briel Thomas on the squad. And Saint Lucia had John Perry Joseph and Lester Joseph.
Dominica was given the Fair Play Award, having suffered the fewest bookings.
Among the dignitaries in attendance for the closing cerermony were Howard McIntosh, FIFA Development Officer; Jamaal Shabazz, technical director of the Guyana Golden Jaguars, scouting St Vincent and the Grenadines ahead of their FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifying matches in June; and Member of Parliament for Vieux Fort North, Honourable Moses Jn Baptiste.