WHAT A DAY!
Mona High and Hydel High created history at Sabina Park on Friday as they booked their spots in the final of the ISSA/Digicel Manning Cup after semi-final wins over many-time champions St George’s College and Kingston College, respectively.
In the opening encounter, Mona — in just their second semi-final appearance in the school’s 44-year existence — battled to a tense 2-1 win over St George’s.
Mona drew first blood in the 38th minute when Matthew Spence latched on to a free kick from the half line and calmly tucked away the ball. However, their lead lasted fewer than four minutes as Zabir Taylor’s curling effort hit the crossbar, but hit the back of a diving Akeem Bernard, which resulted in an own goal.
Unlike their semi-final 2-1 defeat to champions Jamaica College in 2022, Craig Butler’s boys would not be denied as Denzel McKenzie’s stunning free kick in the 55th minute put Mona in front once again.
St George’s, in their quest to end their 11-year title drought, pressed for an equaliser but were unable to find a breakthrough.
They thought they had a lucky break deep into stoppage time as substitute David Granston found himself with a great scoring chance on the edge of the six-yard box, but goalkeeper Bernard made up for his own goal by snuffing out the effort, which ensured Mona held on for the victory.
A tearful Butler found it hard to put the achievement into words.
“So proud of them. I don’t know how to tell you this. I’m very proud of them. They stuck to the game plan, they stuck to the instructions, and they delivered. The whole team, not just the players on the pitch, all the support staffs, the students of the school, the motivation they gave us at the school this morning really helped,” he said.
“Some things don’t need to be said. ‘Show me your faith without works and I shall you my faith by my works.’ Our team has really put in the effort over the years and we’ve gotten the boys to this level and we’re proud of it.”
In the second game of the double-header, Hydel, who lost in the final to St George’s College in 2012, beat their North Street rivals Kingston College 5-4 on penalties after ending 2-2 in 90 minutes.
The Ferry-based school started the game flying as Keyanni Jackson blasted home from distance to give them the lead.
The large turnout of Hydel fans at Sabina were given a further treat as Omario Henry turned past defender at the edge of the 18-yard box and blasted his right foot strike past the front post to make it two nil.
However, KC, this season, have had a knack of coming from behind and the second half proved no different.
Hydel’s Jomo Gordon’s goal kick attempt fell woefully short and Damaine Smith took advantage as his strike from 25 yards found the back of the net.
The comeback was complete in minute 70 as Alex Hislop was sent through on goal and found the bottom corner with relative ease.
The remainder of the half played out with both teams trying to find a winner, but it would end 2-2, sending the match to penalties.
After both teams converted their first two penalties, Hydel goalkeeper Tajarie Lee came up big to deny Kimani Reece’s spot kick.
Hydel would end up converting their remaining three penalties with Jomo Gordon making up for his earlier mistake to send Hydel through to the final.
Devon Anderson hailed his team, despite the second-half nerves that almost cost them a shot at the title.
“The kids deviated away from the game plan, as boys they will always get distracted easily leading 2-0. Nevertheless, it comes 2-2 we hung on, we fought. Once I shouted, ‘Remember the hills,’ they dug deep and fought ’til the end.
“It’s a good feeling, but to be honest, it hasn’t soaked in as yet. I had to pinch myself a while ago to see if I’m still sleeping. Nevertheless, the work is not complete. We have a lot of work to do; this is halfway. I mean, we are here, this is the party, we won, all that behind us and we prepare for our final.”
Mona and Hydel will meet in the final at the National Stadium on Saturday, December 9.