CATHERINE HALL, St James -- Defending champions Glenmuir High will kick off the defence of their title today when they take on Denbigh High in the first game of an ISSA/Lime daCosta Cup double-header at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, in Catherine Hall, set to start at 5:00 pm.
The game follows the opening game of the season, a Manning Cup encounter between all-island champions St George's College and Camperdown High at 3:00 pm, followed by former daCosta Cup champions Cornwall College taking on Maldon High in the third game set to kick off at 7:00 pm.
Just days ago three schools -- Hopewell High in Zone B, Albert Town in Zone G, and Porus High in Zone M withdrew from the competition, leaving 80 schools taking part in the competition.
In that number will be one newcomer, Steer Town Academy, who will play in Zone I.
As a result there was some realignment with Irwin High, who are making a return to the competition, moving from Zone C to Zone B to replace Hopewell High.
Expectations are high on the eve of the start of any season, and there are no exceptions to this one, and already Denbigh High's coach Garfield Carney is predicting his team will start with a win over the defending champions.
Despite having only a week's notice that they would be playing in the opening game, Carney told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, "we will be ready, and even though Glenmuir knew from last year they would be playing this game, our players understand that a fast start is important".
With the withdrawal of Porus High from the zone, leaving only four schools, Carney said the race has turned into a sprint. "This is now like a 100-m race, and we can't afford any slip-ups, we have just six games to play to get into the next round."
Denbigh, he said, have not had a winning start in the last two seasons, losing to Garvey Maceo last year, and Glenmuir the previous season, but having retained "about 80 per cent" of their team last year, plus two new players, including central defender Faizon Walters, who played for Glenmuir last season, coach Carney gives his team a chance.
Glenmuir will return to the scene of their triumph when they 'upset' Ben Francis Knockout champions St Elizabeth Technical, but for the first time in years, the veteran coach Patrick 'Jackie' Walters will not be roaming the sidelines with his usual scowl.
Warren Simpson, who assisted Walters for the past 10 years, is now the man in charge and will seek to add to the school's legacy.
Earlier this year, Simpson told the Observer they would be contenders.
Glenmuir will be without a number of their players from last season as most were in sixth form, while some have transferred to other schools.
In the second game, Cornwall College are expected to get the better of Maldon High in their Zone A encounter.
Cornwall College will be bolstered by the inclusion of several players who were part of their all-conquering Under-16 team last year, and as usual, their fan base is expecting another run at the daCosta Cup they last won in 2001.
Cornwall just missed advancing to the quarter-finals last year and have improved in several areas, especially their offence that was inconsistent.
Maldon managed just three goals and one win all of last season, finishing at the bottom of Zone A, but will be expecting to improve this season.