Sun | Aug 9, 2020

Early loss ignites Cornwall triple in 1983

Published:Friday | November 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence/ Gleaner Writer
In this file photo from December 16, 1984, Cornwall College centre forward Anthony Laird makes a strong run through the middle during the Nutrament Sheild football final at the National Stadium. Laird scored in the fourth and 65th minutes to lead his team a 2-1 win over the defending champions St George's College. Behind Laird is St George's Linkman Mark Murray.

Stung by an early loss in the 1983 daCosta Cup, Cornwall College shifted into high gear. When the season was over, Cornwall had won the daCosta Cup, the Ben Francis Cup, and the symbol of schoolboy football supremacy, the Olivier Shield.

Captained by central defender Lance Gibbs, Cornwall started the defence of the daCosta Cup with two easy wins, 7-0 over The Manning's School, and 2-0 away over Herbert Morrison High and a 1-1 draw at William Knibb. Then came a shock 1-0 loss to Manning's in Savanna-la-Mar. According to Gibbs, their legendary coach issued a stern warning. "Steve Bucknor told us that the under-16 team will play the next game if we don't shape up," he recounted 35 years later.

"We realised that we cannot take any team for granted", said the skipper. When Cornwall took the field again, a Lawrence Burchell header settled a 3-2 battle in the return match with Herbert Morrison.

The inter-zone round saw Cornwall, with its flexible 5-3-2 formation, squelch St Elizabeth Technical High School 1-0, Garvey Maceo 2-0, Ferncourt, 2-0 and Titchfield 2-1. Goals came from all over, with Anthony 'Briggy' Laird, Carlton Alexander, Peter Michael, and Vinton Williams all finding the net.

Burchell, nicknamed 'Crazy Glue,' worked as a defensive screen for the back four.

Chris Thomas, an indispensable cog in midfield, Gurton Thompson, David Faulkner, and Maurice Kerr also played key roles.

Bucknor's game plan for the daCosta final against Rusea's High was simple. "We would counter when possible but remain behind the ball until we get opportunities," Gibbs remembers. Laird settled that encounter three minutes from time to give Cornwall its seventh hold on the daCosta Cup.

A change of tactics threw Rusea's off in the Ben Francis final. After edging past Vere Technical 1-0 in the semi-final, "We came out attacking and Rusea's was not prepared for that", said Gibbs admiringly of Bucknor's acumen. Laird, unerringly, scored from the spot to finish to give Cornwall its first lien on the coveted Ben Francis Cup.

Compelling games

Then came two compelling games against St George's College for the Olivier Shield. Coached by Dennis Ziadie, the Georgians came to Montego Bay and led 1-0 through a thunderous strike by captain Richard Strachan. The ball hit the bar and then bounced downward. When the referee ruled it a goal after consulting with his linesman, the crowd grew angry and police had to restore order. Cornwall fought back, and Laird coolly again scored a penalty to level the score 1-1.

Just before the second leg, Ziadie said, "We drew with them under questionable circumstances and we will beat them tomorrow."

With 12,000 fans inside the National Stadium, Strachan tested Barrington Watson in the Cornwall goal more than once. Gibbs, Paul Weatherly and the rest of the Cornwall defence had to be sharp to deny Chris Ziadie and Strachan. Alexander opened the scoring with a header, and later, a 50th-minute strike by Weatherly gave Cornwall its first Olivier Shield triumph since 1963.

Gibbs still remembers the promise Bucknor made to them when training began in 1981. "Steve Bucknor told us on the first day of training in 1981 that in three years, we will win every trophy that we played for," he recalled with pride.

"They were very, very good students," said Bucknor, "and that reason, they accepted what I was saying, and we experimented a lot, and even though, they were not the best football squad I ever had by way of talent, they showed on the field that they could win, playing to instructions every time."

The triumph closed a circle for Bucknor, who was on the 1963 squad as one of the goalkeepers.