Manning Cup semis take centre stage at National Stadium
FERGUSON...for Jamaica College, our mentality doesn't change for the opponents; our focus is always to go game by game

KINGSTON College will look to make a significant step towards a third ISSA/Digicel Manning Cup title in four seasons when they tackle familiar foes St Andrew Technical High School (STATHS) in the second semi-final at the National Stadium today.

The venue is expected to be bursting with excitement for two much-anticipated fixtures, particularly the 4:00 pm curtain-raiser between many-time champions Jamaica College and highly touted first-time semi-finalists Mona High.

Reigning champions Kingston College and STATHS, who are meeting at this stage of the competition for a second-consecutive season, are scheduled to get the ball rolling at 6:15 pm.

With much familiarity and respect between the respective coaching staff, Kingston College's Head Coach Raymond Watson is not grandstanding against his rivals although history, coupled with their current vein of form, favour his North Street outfit.

WATSON...we just have to prepare the boys so they can go out there and play (Photos: Observer file)

"Phillip Williams is my good friend outside of football and I can tell you, we are not excited about coming up against each other," Watson told the Jamaica Observer.

"But, we are both professionals and so we just have to prepare the boys so they can go out there and play," he added.

Both teams met at this stage in 2017 and 2018, as well as in last year's truncated season. On both occasions when Kingston College won those semi-final clashes in 2018 and last year, they were crowned eventual champions, while STATHS lost to Jamaica College in that 2017 final.

Aside from a 3-2 loss to St George's College and a goalless second-round stalemate with Jose Marti, Kingston College has shown some quality and might have even overachieved in the eyes of some football enthusiasts.

Still, Watson is well aware that no semi-final battle is easy.

"Every year is a different year, and I've only seen them once briefly this season so I can't say much in terms of what they will bring to the table. It's just a matter of the players executing and so all I will say is, 'May the best team win,' " he said.

Phillip Williams and his Spanish Town Road-based team will remember fondly when they bettered Kingston College at this stage in 2017. That victory enabled them to make their first appearance in the final since they won their only Manning Cup title in 1987.

STATHS have been improving with every game played and are heading in the right direction, so with today's outing representing the school's fifth-straight Manning Cup semi-final they will be hoping to make it lucky five and go on to break that lengthy title drought.

The early fixture between Jamaica College and Mona High holds mouth-watering prospects, however both teams — Davion Ferguson's Jamaica College, in particular — know from experience that the game is not played on paper or based on hype. Instead, it will come down to efficient execution.

The unbeaten Old Hope Road team are pushing to contest their eighth final in nine seasons after ruling the coop for five straight years between 2013 and 2017 — a run that was interrupted by Kingston College in 2018.

"Mona and it's coaching staff live on the edge emotionally but for us I think it's all about managing emotions and [enjoying] the moment for us and our supporters," commented Ferguson.

"For Jamaica College, our mentality doesn't change for the opponents; our focus is always to go game by game. We have to be humble but really ambitious at the same time to win the game and achieve what we want," he told the Observer.

The "Dark Blues", who reclaimed the crown for the 30th time in 2019, missed out on adding to their tally with defeat to Kingston College last season, but will be brimming with confidence of making amends this season.

But how do they contain an intense Mona team that's quick from the blocks and plays dynamic football?

"I don't focus too much on the opponent; what we're thinking about is how we're going to win the game. We are in the business end of the season now and so our only approach is to be consistent and fluent in how we play," Ferguson elaborated.

The Craig Butler-coached Mona High is a more well-organised unit from last season when they just missed out on a semi-final berth. Now here, they will be aiming to produce a stunning performance to better their more-decorated opponents.

Sherdon Cowan

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