'A lot of us were crying': Manning's community basks in first-ever daCosta Cup final appearanceFriday, January 14, 2022
BY JOB NELSON
WESTMORELAND, Jamaica – The Manning's School community is basking in its daCosta Cup team's run to their first-ever final in the rural-area schoolboy football competition.
The 72-year-old daCosta Cup has been an elusive prize for the Westmoreland-based institution, the second oldest school in Jamaica having only been able to get to the semi-finals on a few occasions. However, the school's fortunes changed this year and was further solidified on Wednesday when they beat Dinthill Technical 4-2 on penalties to advance to next Friday's final and are now just one win away from a historic title.
It spread sporadic bouts of joy throughout Westmoreland with the team returning from St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), where the match was played, to ecstatic supporters revelling in the achievement with small motorcades.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), was the happiest day of my life. This is history after we have been trying for so long. It is very significant from the school, community and parish aspects,”president of the Manning's School Alumni Football Foundation, Dirk Brown, told OBSERVER ONLINE.
Manning's principal Steve Gordon described the general feeling as “one of emotions”.
“I know a lot of us were crying. This qualification for us even feels as if we have already won because knowing the fact that this is the first time we are going into the final of the daCosta Cup, after so many years,” Brown said.
Kemar Christie, a Manning's past student, expressed an overwhelming feeling of joy over the daCosta Cup team's achievement.
“I am elated and I am humbled. This is a long time coming. We have made history. We have gone so close (in) the semi-finals three times and the fourth is the charm. There are no words,” Christie stated.
Another past student, Sophia Rowe added: “It's an awesome feeling because it's my alma mater of course and being a past student, I am one of the first students on the female football team. We started the female football programme when I was attending and being a footballer myself is a pleasure to see the boys going through for the first time.
“We have always done well academically, we have always done well in netball and both male and female volleyball, but we have never been able to pierce the silver lining in terms of D'Cup football, so to be able to see this now, is awesome.”
Principal Gordon, who has been at the school for more than a decade, said the significance of the achievement was expressed to the second form students at the institution Thursday morning for them to understand the effect it will have on the rest of the school community.
“Seeing that they are so young and the fact that they have not been to school before until now, they don't understand the Manning's experience,” he said while emphasising that the school has been trying to reach this stage since he has been there.
So far in this season's schoolboy football competition, Manning's is still undefeated in the daCosta Cup, having won five of the six preliminary round matches and drawing the other, before moving on to the quarter-finals where they won two of three matches and drew the other, before Wednesday's semi-finals triumph over Dinthill.
The school's only loss this season was in the Champions Cup, where they were defeated 1-0 by defending champions Kingston College in a hard-fought battle in the first round.
According to members of the school fraternity, the success is the fruit of a plan which was etched just over two years ago, with the establishment and registering of the Manning's Alumni Football Foundation as well as the unity of the players and a dedicated management team having workable objectives.
Many see the success of Manning's as their hope for Westmoreland to return to the pinnacle of football in the island, after the parish's steady decline in recent years that has left it without a team in the island's top-tier football competition, the Jamaica Premier League (JPL).
Brown believes the directives of experienced coach Everton Tomlinson, who is also the president of the Westmoreland Football Association, coupled with a good management structure led by Rosalee Wood, were also crucial factors in the success.
“Organisation within any environment is the key to flourish and achieve ultimate goals and so we founded the MSFF and we supplement the programme through major sponsors and provide the necessities while working with the school. This organisation structure and goal in mind was what was lacking over the years,” Brown said.
He said the players have guidance inside and outside of school, as there were constant dialogues with the parents of team members to ensure that whatever issues the players were facing are dealt with.
According to Rowe, apart from the unity of the players as well as the efforts of the management of the team, the administration at the school, the alumni and parents, the support from community members was also crucial to the output of the players.
“The boys also, because they have been in camp for extended periods, they have this brotherhood, this cohesion, they play for each other, so because of that, they are one unit. So it's a vibe within the camp where everybody in the team is fighting for each other,” she said.
“The community is embracing the team because, what has happened, the coronavirus has forced many changes and I believe the changes have helped us because the boys are now camped and training not at the school, but at the Llandilo facility, which is a community facility. So people can see them in training and interact with them.
“Most of the boys are local boys, so they are boys from in and around the community, so the community is like a village, is like a family of support around them. They are now open to the community so they have that support,” she continued.
Principal Gordon added: “I think it is a combination of all things coming together, coaching, management as well as the talent, and for us to coach and manage those talents accordingly.
“We seem to have gotten a lot of things right, including the management and coaching staff and not to downplay the fact that we have a very good team of boys, but I believe we managed the talent this year, very well to the point where it has been fruitful for us up until this stage.”
Now, all eyes in the community are on the ultimate prize, the daCosta Cup, for which Manning's will face off against an arguably more fancied Garvey Maceo outfit which outgunned defending champions Clarendon College to book a spot in the finals.
“In Westmoreland, Manning's is the traditional high school. Frome and Godfrey Stewart won the daCosta Cup and we have been to three semis and this is our first final. For us to win the title, Westmoreland will be rejuvenated,” Brown said.
Rowe added: “We are going for the ultimate. The boys now have the belief in their eyes and they are going out there to do it. Win lose or draw, they are going out there and they are going to leave everything on the pitch.
“If we win there will be no more Westmoreland. Westmoreland will be painted blue. Manning's is the premier high school in Westmoreland, it is the pride and joy of Westmoreland so imagine Manning's School taking home D'Cup, mad. Maybe the Mayor or the Custos would give us a public holiday in Westmoreland,” she joked.