Photo: Jamaica College receives the Manning Cup trophy after defeating St. Georges College 1-0 in the final at Sabina Park last year.
The highly anticipated Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/FLOW schoolboy football season gets underway tomorrow with the traditional double header, featuring the defending Manning Cup and DaCosta Cup champions at the Catherine Hall Sports Complex in Montego Bay, St. James.
Three times defending champions Jamaica College will begin the defence of the Manning Cup title against St. Andrew Technical High school in the curtain raiser at 2:45 pm, while the defending DaCosta Cup champions St. Elizabeth Technical High school (STETHS) will battle Black River High two hours later.
Other games in both competitions will take place across the island but the television cameras are expected to be focused on Catherine Hall where the form of the champions will come under close scrutiny.
JC will start favourites to retain their title but St. Georges College (STGC), the only other school to win the title in the last nine years (four times) will look to have a strong say in the destination of the trophy this year. Coach Miguel Coley has never lost the Manning Cup title as head coach of JC and it will take a lot to pry his fingers loose this season.
Kingston College, the North Street neighbours of STGC, have been slowly moulding a squad over the last three years and strongly believe that the 30 year hoodoo dating all the way back to 1986, when they last won the title, is about to end. Ludlow Bernard, himself and old boy of the school, has overseen an impressive preseason and believes that chances of KC are as good as any other school in the competition.
Excelsior High school has done well for themselves during the summer months and has assembled a squad that will be able to mix it up with the best of them. Wolmers Boys will also fancy their chances based on the players they have retained and are hoping that the success they have had in the past few seasons in the Walker Cup competition, will finally spill over into the coveted Manning Cup competition.
In the DaCosta Cup, STETHS remains strong and it will take a mighty effort from their rivals to prevent them from making it three wins in four years.
Last year’s beaten finalists Dinthill Technical had a fantastic preseason and they are determined to unseat the champions. Confidence is sky high at the institution despite the fact that they are likely to be without last year’s hitman, Rodave Murray.
Manchester High is now being coached by National Under-17 head coach Andrew Edwards and will be looking to better their Ben Francis runner-up finish last season.
Ruseas High last won in 2011 and they are believed to be ready to make a comeback, but must show their quality in Zone B first.
The next three months will be full of exciting football as schools vie for the various trophies on offer, but ultimately, it will be the Manning and DaCosta Cups that matter the most.