The group stages for the Guernsey 2023 Football Tournaments have been drawn. Ynys Môn will once again be sending their men’s and women’s teams to the Island Games with the aim being the gold medals.
It’s been a four year gap since the last edition of the Island Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Island Games hosts Gibraltar were unable to host football, so our very own island picked up hosting duties at a specially arranged tournament known as the Inter Games. Our men’s team won a memorable gold medal in front of a packed house at Holyhead Hotspur whilst our women’s team went beyond expectations to win the silver medal after a close 2-1 loss to Isle of Man. Both teams will therefore head to Guernsey with high hopes.
As per the football by-laws, the four seeded teams were Isle of Man, Guernsey, Greenland and Menorca based on 2017 results. Ynys Môn have been placed in Group 2 with 2017 champions Isle of Man. It was that year that saw Isle of Man cruise past Ynys Môn in the group stage 4-0, a result that sent IOM to the semi finals. The head-to-head between the two is even on two wins a piece, although IOM have the two most recent victories. Also in that 2017 group was the Falkland Islands. They will join us again in 2023. Having only met on that single occasion, a 3-0 win indicates Ynys Môn should be looking for another victory over our Atlantic Ocean friends. Other than claiming bronze at the four-team Bermuda tournament in 2013, they’ve never finished above 10th at the Island Games. The final side completing Group 2 is Shetland. They have yo-yo’d in recent editions with finishes of 1st, 13th, 4th, 10th and 4th. Our matchups with Shetland have been tight but over five meetings; we have won four of them with the fifth game being a draw. Whilst neither Falklands or Shetland are to be taken lightly, eyes will be on the Isle of Man game as a potentially crucial match.
Elsewhere in the men’s football, newcomers Gozo have been given a tough group with seeded Menorca plus channel islanders Jersey. Those two have featured in the medals before and will be tough opposition for the Mediterranean side. Completing Group 4 will be fans favorites St Helena. Well chronicled for their previously epic journey to even get to the Games, their journey is slightly easier now with a new airport. They first used that to send a team to Ynys Môn 2019 and put up a good show, albeit unable to secure a victory whilst there. Group 1 has hosts Guernsey plus two other medal hopefuls in Åland and Isle of Wight. The latter won gold in 2011 against Guernsey so that should be a huge game. Western Isles started men’s football very well when they joined the IIGA, claiming back to back bronze medals. Times haven’t been so kind recently, with finishes averaging around 10th. Group 3 has the ambitious Greenland, who are the main seeds. They are looking to join FIFA and will be wanting to put on a good show to onlookers. They are joined by current FIFA members Bermuda. They will be sending a development side to the Games, believed to be Under 23’s. Joining those two will be Frøya, perennial strugglers, and Orkney who have a habit of finishing in 8th or 9th place.
Our women’s side had a fantastic tournament on home soil in 2019 and bagged the silver medal. Seeding for this tournament is based on the 2017 tournament as the last official tournament, meaning we were not seeded. The draw for 2023 has been kind to us as we avoid the big guns of Isle of Man, Bermuda, Jersey and Åland. Those four have bagged six titles and 18 medals between them. Ten teams are entering in total and we’ve got Group 3 with two other sides in it. Guernsey have been seeded as hosts and this is the best seed we could have drawn. They’ve only entered once in recent years and in that 2015 edition they picked up a tight 3-2 win against us. Facing them three times in Island Games history, Guernsey have won them all, but after our 2019 showing, we’ll be looking to break that record. Completing the group is Western Isles. They’ve never medalled at the Games but have not been at the bottom either. We’ve played each other twice, with both sides winning a game each. It’s a winnable group for us but we’ll need to be at our best to do it.
In the other groups, it looks like a three-way battle for Group 1. Åland have only ever failed to reach the final once and that was when fellow Group 1 side Jersey beat them in the Group Stage of 2015. Jersey went on to claim gold that year and collected bronze in the two football tournaments since. Bermuda are sending their women’s side and have been placed in Group 1 as well. They’ve entered three times and medalled on each occasion, winning it in Bermuda in 2013. The unfortunate side joining those three is Hitra. They’ve always finished near the bottom of the rankings and will have a huge ask to get anything from these three, having never beaten any of them. Group 2 has 2019 winners Isle of Man who are the seeded side. Isle of Wight join them, having the peculiar record of only ever finishing 4th or 5th in the seven tournaments they’ve entered. Menorca are the third and final side in Group 2. They’ve only entered once before, finishing 6th in 2017. They had a tough group and have yet to face either Isle of Man or Isle of Wight. It will be an intriguing group to see who goes through.