Tivoli Gardens looking to reclaim elite status in Group C
GROUP C of the ISSA/LIME Manning Cup is arguably the most open of the seven zones with no clear-cut favourites. In fact, it could also be deemed the weakest of the groups.
Two-time champions Tivoli Gardens — winners in 1976 and 1999 — and 1991 champion Ardenne High are the only two schools with pedigree in this group. But they are far from being championship contenders.
The emerging Denham Town High and Innswood High are the two seeded teams based on last year's performances and the six-team group is completed by Edith Dalton James High and St Mary's College.
The Industrial Terrace-based Tivoli Gardens High are a shadow of the once powerful West Kingston school, having finished at the bottom of Group E last year with just four points from 10 games. But they are hell bent on regaining their elite position in schoolboy football.
They won just once, lost a staggering eight times and drew once, much to the disbelief of their football-loving fans, to finish behind less traditional schools such as Jose Marti and St Andrew College.
Title sponsor LIME has promised to bring back the glory days and assistant coach Raymond Thorpe believes this year, Tivoli Gardens will be back amongst the elite, although still not where they want to be.
"We are still not there yet. However, we should see a much better team in terms of their playing style and attitude this year," said Thorpe.
"Looking at our players and not taking anything away from the other teams, but I think this is one of the years we should come out of the group. It's been a while," noted Thorpe.
Tivoli Gardens, normally the feeder school to their community premier league team, have retained a number of players and Thorpe is optimistic.
"We have retained about 11 players from last year and we should do well because we have the experience in the squad," he added.
Coincidentally, Tivoli Gardens' demise has seen the rise of their neighbours Denham Town High, who won seven of their 10 games last year to finish in second place in Group C behind eventual finalist Wolmer's Boys'.
Denham Town are again expected to be fighting for top spot in this group and are heavily favoured to secure one of the two spots to advance next round.
Innswood High from Spanish Town are the other seeded team based on last season, having finished second in Group G behind Holy Trinity High, who were touted as the weakest zone last year.
Again Innswood are placed into what is deemed the weakest group and could again seize the opportunity and press for top spot.
The blue and gold clad Ardenne High are now being coached by Junior Francis, after finishing fourth in Group E last year, garnering seven points inclusive of two wins, seven defeats and one draw, but they could be the surprise package in this group. Ardenne had some level of pedigree when compared to the other teams in this group and that might count for something.
Edith Dalton James also had a dismal season last year with just two wins from 10 games and are not expected to challenge seriously this time around.
Meanwhile, St Mary's College, who finished fourth behind Innswood High in Group G last season, could improve on their three wins and make the zone very interesting.
This group is certainly not the group of death, but with nothing much to choose from between the teams, Group C honours could turn out to be anybody's.