A night when the cheers went up for MoBay United

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 25, 2014

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WHILE 2013-14 champions Montego Bay United were ceremonially handed the Premier League trophy Thursday evening, the title sponsors Red Stripe announced their interest in extending the union with top-flight club football into next season.

The just-concluded season is the third edition of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) and Erin Mitchell, the beer company's brand manager for its Jamaica operations, gave early notice of future intentions.

"Red Stripe has signalled to the PLCA that it would like to continue as title sponsor of the national premier league," Mitchell said in a short speech during Thursday evening's RSPL Awards Ceremony at the Courtleigh Auditorium.

"We are committed to bringing the best to our fans and it is to that end we are going to continue to work with the PLCA (Premier League Clubs Association).

"We will continue to make improvements to this product, improving our broadcasts, our analyses and our interaction with the fans."

The Red Stripe brand manager thanked the fans for the "overwhelmingly positive response" to the 2013-14 RSPL season, while calling the sponsorship a "significant investment for Red Stripe". She said the semi-final play-offs provided "a thrilling end to a great season".

Montego Bay United beat Waterhouse FC 5-2 in the grand final last Monday to pocket the winners' prize of $2.5 million. Waterhouse, the most consistent team during the league phase of the competition, were awarded $1.5 million for ending top of the standings at the end of the preliminary stage.

Edward Seaga, the chairman of both the PLCA and the Professional Footballers Association of Jamaica (PFAJ) welcomed the verbal proposal from Red Stripe, while urging stakeholders to put their "minds together to bring about the maximum in Jamaica's football".

He commended Red Stripe for "helping to push" along the idea of playing the play-offs, though some parties had opposed the move, favouring the straight league format, held in recent years.

The 83-year-old Seaga, a former prime minister of Jamaica, said the "attacking football" witnessed in the "excellent semi-finals" was indicative of the positive mindset of all four teams, and he spared a thought for Waterhouse, who went 20 games unbeaten heading into the championship match debacle.

To many nods of approval among those in attendance at the ceremony, he described Waterhouse's run as "something near a miracle in football".

Aside from snaring the award for the top team, Montego Bay United — formerly Seba United — won the prize for best defensive team and their goalkeeper Jacomeno Barrett was recognised as the best shot-blocker.

Waterhouse's coach Anthony Patrick, who won 14, drew six and lost one match after taking over the reins in January, was awarded Coach of the Year. Waterhouse's custodian, the popular Richard McCallum, won the influential personality-based Tony Burrowes Award. Waterhouse were also the team with the most wins in the competition.

Harbour View FC's striker Brian Brown, a former standout at the schoolboy level, won the top goalscorer award with his 18 goals, narrowly squeezing out Rivoli United's Devon Hodges (17). The Rivoli striker, however, was handed the Most Valuable Player Award.

Boys' Town FC attacker Andre Dawson was the Junior Player of the Season, while relegated Portmore United, former giants on the local circuit, copped the FIFA Fair Play Award.

The enterprising Arnett Gardens FC, who fell at the semi-final stage Beverages, distributors of Busta soft drink; Jamaica Urban Transit Company; Television Jamaica; KLAS ESPN FM Radio; and the Jamaica Observer.

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Captain Horace Burrell, a prominent crusader for encouraging increased investment in the sport locally, praised the sponsors who supported the RSPL throughout the campaign.

"Without their support it is never going to be possible to conduct a successful league. For the coming season I'm looking for more sponsors," he said.

"Monday Night football is really a brilliant initiative and we have seen the interest grow."

According to the local football boss, "China Harbour is far more recognised" in the island because of their partnership with football.

The former army man then paid tribute to the champions for being the first team from western Jamaica to win the national club title since the 1996-97 season.

"Tonight belongs to Montego Bay United. You have been able to return the Premier League trophy to western Jamaica.

"Waterhouse, you tried very hard, but believe me, I felt it for you," he said, before being interrupted by a moment of laughter in the audience.

Maintaining a poker-faced countenance, he continued: "No, I'm serious because Waterhouse have been playing so well and had so many great results leading up to the final."

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