MONTEGO BAY, St James — DESPITE having to wait a few seasons more than they had planned, Reggae Youths, one of the revelations of the new St James Football Association's 2012-2013 season, will make their debut on the national stage later this year after qualifying for the Jamaica Football Federation's All-island Flow Champions Cup KO.
In last Sunday's semi-finals at Jarrett Park, Reggae Youths beat Super League club Granville United 5-4 on penalty kicks to set up a 'David vs Goliath' clash with Premier League contenders Montego Bay United in the Captain's Bakery and Grill Knockout finals at Jarrett Park this Sunday starting at 7:00 pm.
Their win over Granville came two days after they opened their St James FA Sandals/ATL Senior League season with a bruising 1-0 win over last season's beaten finalists Little Miami.
Just over a week earlier they had beaten yet another Super League team, Norwood Strikers, also on penalty kicks, in the quarterfinals of the Captain's Bakery and Grill Knockout.
Oscar Irving, the coach of the Reggae Youths team, told Observer West that his team was not overawed at the prospects of going up against MBU on Sunday.
"We are ready for it, yes there might be some butterflies for some players, but most of them are ready for the challenge," he said. "We could face a Premier League club in the first round of the Flow Cup so we might as well get used to it now."
He said words were not enough to express their delight after the semi-finals win over Granville and MBU's 3-0 win over Melbourne in the other semi-finals to confirm their place in the Flow competition as the best non-Premier League team from St James.
MBU will have an automatic berth in the all-island competition.
Irving added that they are looking forward to the days when they will be going up against Premier League clubs every weekend.
"Like any other football club, the aim is to play in the Premier League and we think we are on the way there," he said.
A number of the players in this Reggae Youths team, he pointed out, came out of their Under-14 programme which was started in 1997. Most of them, he noted, played on the winning Sandals Under-20 competition in July/August.
Reggae Youths players, he added, are drawn from mostly St James communities and a number have played daCosta Cup schoolboys' football for several schools all over the western region.
After spending what Irving described as "a few more years than we expected" in the Division One, they finally won it last year to earn promotion to the Senior League bringing them closer to the goal of a spot in the Super League and ultimately the Premier League.
Reggae Youths is on an unbeaten run that spans two seasons, losing just once in the Division One last year, before reeling off five wins so far this season, including four in the Knockout.
It would, however, take a brave man to bet on them beating MBU that has conceded just once in four games in the Knockout, while scoring 22 goals in the process. But as far as Irving is concerned, the first objective has already being met, having qualified for the JFF Flow Champions Cup KO, "so whatever comes against MBU will be bonus."