Orville Higgins | Are Olivier Shield champs really the best?
At 6 p.m. tomorrow, Rusea's and Jamaica College will square off for the Olivier Shield title. The clichÈ that always goes with this game is that it is 'the symbol of schoolboy supremacy'. By pitting the Manning Cup champions to have a showdown against the daCosta Cup kingpins, the Olivier Shield was always designed to determine the best overall football school team in the island.
Will tomorrow's winner automatically be the best schoolboy team in Jamaica? I am not so sure.
I have had many interesting discussions about who should have greater bragging rights, the Olivier Shield winner or the FLOW Cup champions. The answer is not as obvious as some may believe.
The Olivier Shield winner can always claim to be the holder of at least two trophies, since you can't get to be Olivier Shield champions unless you have won either the Manning or Dacosta cup as well. The FLOW Cup winners, however, may just end up with one. That is a compelling argument in favour of the Olivier Shield winners.
MAKING JC's CASE
Let's look specifically at this season. If JC win tomorrow, they would add the Olivier Shield to the Manning and Walker Cup titles. Then there really couldn't be any debate about the top dog. This JC team is not the marauding outfit they were a few seasons ago, but if they win three of the four titles on offer, argument done! If Rusea's triumph, however, it's not so clear-cut; the Kingston College supporters could well have an argument.
JC and KC met three times this year, with the North Street team winning two from three. Head to head then, KC can lay claim to being better than their fierce Old Hope Road rivals this year, which means KC could well claim to be better than the Manning and Walker Cup champions this season.
Rusea's were completely outclassed by KC 4-1 in the FLOW Cup semis. I watched the game, and it didn't look like Rusea's belonged on the same field. I watched that same Rusea's team hammering STETHS brilliantly 5-2 in the daCosta Cup semis, and remember they defeated the classy Clarendon College 2-1 in the daCosta Cup final.
Rusea's are, therefore, no joke, which emphasises how monumental that spanking they got from KC was at Catherine Hall. So the naked truth is that KC definitely had the better of the two teams who will be contesting the Olivier Shield final tomorrow. In the argument about bragging rights, how much weight do we give to KC's results against both Olivier Shield contenders?
WINNING WHEN IT MATTERS
The truth, though, is that a competition is not merely about winning, but winning when it matters. The best team doesn't always win a tournament. KC lost a Manning Cup semi-final against to less-favoured and less-talented STATHS.
Sports, however, doesn't follow a handbook. This is indeed why we watch, because nothing is predictable. The STATHS team showed they were a plucky outfit, pushing JC to penalties in the Manning Cup final. You get the feeling that STATHS were at their best while JC were slightly below par.
I still believe that KC were the best team in schoolboy football this year, with the caveat 'when they were playing their best'. Their results in the early stages and against the high rollers in the late stages proved it. They were not at their best against JC in the Walker Cup final or against STATHS in the Manning Cup semi.
If Rusea's win the Olivier Shield tomorrow, the argument about the best schoolboy team this year will be far from settled.
I am not convinced that the game tomorrow would necessarily be 'the symbol of schoolboy football supremacy'.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.