MAY PEN, Clarendon – At the start of the season, no one expected Glenmuir High to be crowned daCosta Cup champions, yet no one was brave enough to bet against them.
Such is their credibility in schoolboy football that they have won the rural area trophy even when they are not necessarily planning for it.
Their 1-0 extra-time won over St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) in last Saturday’s final at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, in some ways, mirrors their 2006 triumph over Frome Technical at Jarrett Park.
On that Saturday evening, they prevailed on penalties when not even their coach, Patrick ‘Jackie’ Walters had expected them to be in the final.
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for ‘Colour Red’, but like they did this season, they somehow managed to stay below the radar until the knockout stages of the competition.
“Sometimes with youngsters it’s good to keep them out of the spotlight,” Walters said. “They tend to lose focus when they feel like they have already (met the objective).”
Six years ago, it was another Clarendon school, Clarendon College — formerly coached by Walters, that was expected to challenge for the title.
Clarendon and Frome boasted arguably the best compilation of players that year and appeared to be cruising to the title. Frome had beaten Clarendon on penalties in the Ben Francis KO final at STETHS before repeating their victory in the daCosta Cup semi-final, but just could not rise to the occasion in the final.
A similar course was predicted this year. North central Clarendon side Lennon High and STETHS were the odds on favourites. But while Lennon stumbled at the tricky Inter-Zone round, the Santa Cruz-based STETHS motored on, winning a record third consecutive Ben Francis KO title to immediately install themselves as favourites for the rural area double.
Glenmuir, in the meantime, kept a low profile with efficient victories in the early rounds of the competition, only resembled serious title contenders when they thrashed Manning’s School 3-0 in the semis.
Their only loss of the season was a 0-1 defeat to parish rivals Garvey Maceo in the preliminary round, which meant they finished second in Group M. But given his track record for producing a number of winning schoolboy teams, Walters knew that was but a small blip on the road to success.
Unlike the vintage sides of the 1990s and the early part of this century, this was not a classic Glenmuir team. With the exception of prolific striker Noel Johnson and the creative Newton Henry, Walters had no real brand name players at his disposal. He, however, had a group of hard workers who were willing to learn.
“We have not brought in a single player (on transfer) in the past three years and we don’t have one single player repeating sixth form,” Walters told the Jamaica Observer following his team’s success in St James.
“This new administration at the school is stressing academics and has thrown their full support behind the team, even with the limited budget available to the school.”
While many had doubts about their ability to go all the way in the competition, the Glenmuir camp always believed they were champions in the making.
“We had no doubt that we could have won the daCosta Cup because we have quality players,” team captain Kamal Henry said. “With the exception of a few players from the Under-16 programme, we have been playing together from last year so we know that we have a good team.”
“They were always confident,” Walters added. “Potentially, they had the capacity to win the competition. Whether they were prepared to put out the hard work and commitment, which they did, is another matter.”
Former national goalkeeper Alien Whittaker, who was an integral member of Walters’ 1998 Clarendon College Triple Crown team, believes Glenmuir’s triumph speaks volume about the veteran coach’s ability to motivate his players.
“There’s no doubt about him in that regard; he’s a great motivator,” Whittaker said. “He knows exactly how to get you to do whatever he wants you to do on the field. He’s really a father figure.”
“I actually watched him grooming this team,” he added, “and what he does is makes everybody feel like they are important.”
Glenmuir are all but down and out in the battle for the Olivier Shield — the symbol of all-island schoolboy football supremacy — played between the Manning and daCosta Cup champions. They were humbled 4-1 by St George’s College in Wednesday’s firstleg at Constant Spring, but will be the first to tell you that, while they wanted to win it, success in the daCosta Cup was always their priority.