SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Manning's School, the second oldest educational institution in the country, will be going after their first-ever football title today when they meet 2006 champions Garvey Maceo High in the final of the ISSA/Digicel daCosta Cup football competition at the St Elizabeth Technical Sports Complex in a match set to start at 3:15 pm.
Both schools, which will take unbeaten records into today's game, were expressing confidence on yesterday's eve of the final, both showing deference to the other but expecting to come out the victors at the end of the contest.
Garvey Maceo High, which knocked out two-time defending champions Clarendon College 3-2 in the semi-finals, will be seeking to complete a rare treble, winning at all three age groups with the same set of players after they had won the ISSA National Under-14 and Under-16 double in 2018.
Coach Merron Gordon, who had taken Lennon High to within minutes of winning the daCosta Cup in 2010 when they lost under controversial conditions to Rusea's High at Jarrett Park, says winning the title would mean a lot both to him personally, as well as the team.
They will also hope to make up for losing the Ben Francis KO title to BB Coke in the 2019 season when they lost on penalty kicks after an exciting 2-2 draw in regulation.
“These boys know what it takes to win, as well as what it means to win.” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday. “For me, it's one step closer to winning the daCosta Cup,” Gordon added.
He says he is expecting a “tactical game” in the final.
“It could come down to who has the better defence [and] who is able to control the midfield,” Gordon said, pointing out that both schools had potent attacking forces to call on.
“Nerves will play a part [as] this is a final and anything can happen, so we just need to make sure they are calm,” Gordon added.
Manning's School Coach Everton Tomlinson says his boys will be ready for the biggest game of their lives thus far.
“They are good to go,” he told the Observer yesterday.
Tomlinson said games against Kingston College (in the Champions Cup) and beating highly fancied Dinthill Technical in the semi-finals last week would have helped to bolster his team's confidence.
“They have proved to themselves that they can play with the best teams and do well, so there cannot be any doubts about their abilities at this stage,” he said.
Tomlinson said his team will be playing the same style of football they have employed all season.
“Nothing will change with how we play, no matter who the opponents are... we are playing our game,” which, he says, is to take the game to the opponent.
Manning's School had outlasted Dinthill Technical to win on penalties, but will be expecting Jahmaleek Porter, Jhamaro Hall, Abena Wallace and Shamar Hamilton to lead the attack against a tight Garvey Maceo defence.
Garvey Maceo's high-octane offence will be led by the prolific Gregory Cousins and Cleo Clark, who have combined to score 29 goals throughout the season and 13 since the start of the quarter-final round.
Cousins, who was part of the Under-16 team in 2018, has been on a rampage with nine goals since the quarter-finals started, just one fewer than the entire Manning's team.
Manning's School will have their work cut out for them in trying to stop the Garvey Maceo juggernaut, but proved their mettle against an equally strong Dinthill Technical team a week ago.