Since the competition’s inception, there have been 14 different winners of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Digicel Manning Cup. On Friday evening at the National Stadium, a 15th champion will be crowned as Hydel High and Mona High face off in the final of the urban area showpiece. Kick-off is set for 6:15.
The last 17 years of the Manning Cup have seen the trophy take residence on North Street and Old Hope Road. In fact, prior to the start of the season, not many would have expected these two non-traditional schools to meet in the final but the chance to bring it home to Mona or to Ferry means a lot to Hydel Head Coach Devon Anderson and his Mona counterpart Craig Butler.
“It’s a very good feeling, a wonderful feeling for the Hydel family,” said Anderson. “We are in another final and plan to go one game better than the last one. The mood is very high. The supporters, my supporters, are ready and raring to go, the boys are ready to go and we’re looking for a nice festival. After 90 minutes, we’re hoping to lift that cup.”
“It means a great deal. It uplifts the school, it gives the school understanding that they can achieve anything if they set their mind to it and work hard at it. History has been made again; each year we’ve made history. Quarter-finals, semi-finals, now finals. We’re currently focused on just going out there and winning,” Butler said.
Since the start of the competition, Butler’s Mona have been unbeaten and their semi-final win against perennial champions St George’s College proved their title mettle. The likes of Dante Peralto, Denzel McKenzie, Kshaine Gordon and star goalkeeper Akeem Bernard will be looking to continue their magnificent run this season, which has seen them concede just eight goals and scoring 53 along the way.
Under Anderson, Hydel took the competition by storm with their stellar performances that saw them advance over the likes of former champions Kingston College, Jamaica College and St George’s College. Their stout defence has been led by centre back Michael Forbes who has arguably been the best in the competition, while their often fluent attack has seen the likes of Keyanni Jackson, Omario Henry and D’Sean Henry prosper.
Butler, who says it’s his last year coaching in schoolboy football due to health reasons, is however not in the least bit worried about the second-time finalists.
“I’ve never been concerned about my opponents, never. We’re still unbeaten in the Manning Cup. If you look at the stats, we’re way ahead. We barely lost to Glenmuir which was a goalkeeper error which he barely makes. Glenmuir beat Clarendon and Clarendon beat Hydel so at the end of the day, if you look at the stats, we’ll be able to comfortably defeat beat Hydel. But the ball [is] round so it’s who want it more going to win it, and I know my boys want it,” said Butler.
Anderson, on the other hand, is taking a more cautious stance regarding Mona’s threat.
“To make it to the final, you have to be doing something good. We’re not underestimating our opponent; we respect that but we don’t fear any team. The championships is out there. It’s not ours, it’s not theirs. The aim is for us to get it and likewise them. We’ll put our best foot forward in order to get that. That’s what we’ve been working for all season and will continue to until after those 90 minutes. The team that makes the least mistake will decide the victory. The preparation has been tedious, the boys are in good shape, good mental condition and we’re looking forward to a good game.” he said.
The winner will not only be crowned urban area champions but will have an opportunity to feature in the Olivier Shield play-off against rural area contenders Clarendon College or Glenmuir next Wednesday.
In the curtain-raiser at the National Stadium, Jamaica College battle St Andrew Technical High School in the ISSA Walker Cup, starting at 3:00 pm.