ST LAWRENCE manager Chris Riley was feeling ‘absolutely ecstatic’ when he received the news that confirmed his team as inaugural champions of the Condor Ferries CI Women’s League, in the parish club's centenary season.
The Saints, formed in 1919, were more or less champions already, having led the table by six points and a 44-goal difference, with second-placed JTC Jersey Wanderers having only two games left to play. However, the coronavirus outbreak threatened to expunge all results and lead to what would have been a grave sporting injustice – had the Jersey FA opted to null and void the season, as other leagues had been forced to do so in England.
‘You’re on knife-edge aren’t you? Because you don’t know if it’s going to go one way or if it’s going to go the other way,’ admitted Riley. ‘When you’ve seen what happened to the Jersey Bulls you wonder what way are we going to go here? The clear lead we had, I was always hoping we would get the result that we did.
‘It’s a huge relief for everybody but it was well-deserved. They’ve been phenomenal this year with all the hard work coming off the pitch and on the training ground and then it all just came together but obviously there’s always something that tries to stop St Lawrence and this time it was a pandemic but thankfully we got over the line!’
On the way to winning the league, officially settled by a perfect three points per game average, St Lawrence had won all seven of their matches, with three games still to play, scoring a remarkable 51 goals, 21 of them coming from the prolific boots of striker Rosie Corbett, and conceding only six. For Riley, it is a success that has been three years in the making.
‘It’s down to hard work and consistency,’ said Riley. ‘We’ve had consistency on the training ground and I think that’s transferred on to the pitch for the games and we’ve been together for three years so we pretty much now know how I want them to play but they’ve taken on the leadership themselves and we’ve got a great captain in Kelly Hughes and she’s a great leader on and off the pitch as well and then obviously Rosie’s been superb as well again this season and she’s just getting better every year now. It’s always good to have a top striker who can finish things off.’
As with Jersey Wanderers’ league winning men’s side, the players and coaching staff of St Lawrence could only celebrate with each other over the internet using the now-popular web conferencing software Zoom. Meanwhile, Riley has already been busy plotting the next steps for St Lawrence’s domination of the women’s game in the Channel Islands.
‘We had a five-hour team Zoom on Friday night and it was a bit different from normal celebrations but at least we all got to be together and enjoy the moment,’ said Riley. ‘We’ve set the bar. We won the Zenith Cup, we’ve won the Colin Welsh Cup [in 2019, now called the Woman’s Jersey FA Cup], we’ve won the league now. I think the next statement is to win all three in one season after winning the double this year. I’ve already been using this time we’ve had to put plans in place for next season and getting us ready.’