Sport

'Mighty conquerors'

St Catherine High bask in glory of historic Walker Cup triumph

BY SANJAY MYERS
Senior staff reporter
myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

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AS lyrics from the Bob Marley and the Wailers 1980 mega hit Redemption Song were chanted during St Catherine High's devotion yesterday morning, it might have aroused the emotion of one person more than any other.

The school's football Head Coach Anthony Patrick — noting the talented bunch at his disposal — had last season predicted a title that never came.

However, vindication came on Friday when the St John's Road, Spanish Town-based institution beat Excelsior High 3-2 in the urban area Walker Cup knockout final at National Stadium.

It's the first major schoolboy football title for the Roman Catholic high school, founded in 1948.

“I'm really happy for the school, I'm happy for the community itself, and the players on a whole. I had promised them a title from 2018 and it didn't happen; it happened this year, so I'm very happy for that,” Patrick told journalists yesterday.

“I think we had quality [players] last year, but we have a little bit more [squad] depth this year with a lot of youngsters, so I'm proud of them,” he added.

Patrick noted that extra motivation came after they were ruled out of the cash-rich Champions Cup, and later eliminated from the prestigious urban area Manning Cup competition.

“We were very disappointed last year and again disappointed this year at not making the top eight to go to the Champions Cup — but we stuck to the task and regrouped and took the Walker Cup.

Due to changes made by organisers over the past two seasons to reduce the workload on young players, the Walker Cup no longer features the very best teams that urban area schoolboy football has to offer. This season, the semi-finalists in the Manning Cup were not allowed to vie for the Walker Cup.

However, the St Catherine team had to beat perennial Manning Cup contenders St George's College via penalty shoot-out in the semi-finals, before dispatching seven-time Walker Cup winners Excelsior in the championship encounter.

Patrick won two Manning Cup titles as well as the all-island Olivier Shield and the Walker Cup with Bridgeport High, among the mere handful of non-traditional schools to lift major football titles since the turn of the century.

He said he is not afraid to butt heads with schools which have the resources to put together well-funded, talented and deep squads.

“It's a challenge and I like challenges…to take schools that aren't traditional schools in football and to go up against more accomplished high schools in football isn't a problem for me. It [winning] is definitely extra sweet,” he explained.

Patrick had a stint at St Catherine High in 2014, but left for a taste of the rural area daCosta Cup at Dinthill Technical in 2015. He returned to St Catherine High in 2016, methodically laying the platform for Friday's historic achievement.

“It [the support from the school community] was amazing. The management staff, I must lift my hat to them. They really worked… words cannot explain how hard they worked with us. And the school [body] and the Principal [Marlon Campbell] played significant roles with the alumni association,” he said.

Yesterday's celebration kicked off with the devotional exercise shortly after 8:00 am. But it picked up pace with a motorcade as flag-waving, vuvuzela-blaring and drum-beating students, staff members, and school supporters made their way through sections of Spanish Town.

They carried a banner bearing the words “Walker Cup Champions” and “Mighty Conquerors”.

Campbell, in his 11th year as St Catherine's principal, said the co-educational high school's Latin-based motto Preces et Opera Omnia Vincunt, which translates to “Prayer and Work Conquer All”, is at the heart of the 2019 breakthrough.

“It's jubilation…it's an awesome feeling. In 71 years we hadn't won a major football championship, so this is just so glorious. It's a wonderful time. We have been working assiduously, and I can tell you there are greater things to come,” Campbell said.

He revealed that running the football programme, which is largely funded by past students' bodies, costs “at least $10 million” each year.

“There has been a synergy among the alumni associations, both locally and abroad, and they have been injecting serious dollars into our programmes — so I can tell you they are over the moon today,” he said.

“I'm certain that now people will pump even more money, and more young footballers will want to come here, because formerly people didn't see St Catherine High as a football school. We are very serious about our many programmes here; we want to create excellence in all things — in academia, in track and field, in football, in all areas,” the principal added.

Ian Cupee, the St Catherine football team captain, is completing the last of his two years at the school after joining from Bridgeport.

He is elated at the reception they have received since claiming schoolboy football silverware.

“It's tremendous. It's a fantastic feeling. It's a great feeling; and the energy within the school is fantastic,” the confident central defender told the Jamaica Observer.

“From the beginning of the Walker Cup we had planned to give everything and to risk everything for this title… it definitely worked out for us,” Cupee beamed.


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