Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | An Olivier Shield showdown to savour

Published:Thursday | December 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Last Friday's ISSA/Digicel Manning Cup was a scrappy but dramatic affair, with Kingston College (KC) ending a 32-year exile. A day later, Clarendon College showed a stubborn streak to repeat history in the daCosta Cup final in Montego Bay. Together, the two encounters were a thrilling climax to the schoolboy football season.

Especially dangerous after the introduction of Trayvon Reid, Kingston College shaded the first-ever all-North Street Manning Cup final. Remarkably, the Purples came from behind twice to regain the trophy that has eluded them for 32 years.

The drama came in the last 10 minutes of a game seen in person by approximately 9,000 fans. With a young St George's College side leading 2-1, Michael Allen equalised for KC and then a deflected shot rewarded a hard-working KC effort and vindicated coach Ludlow Bernard, who was under the gun.

Now Bernard has led his beloved school to three trophies in three seasons.

Neither team was able to really control play, but Reid's speed gave KC a weapon that started the revival.

While Kingston College had entered that contest as slight favourites over the young Georgians, the result of the daCosta Cup final was an upset. In minutes, Cornwall had a one-man advantage. Yet, in a display of courage, the Purples would admire the 10 boys of Clarendon College who stood firm.

Their poise and control was a tribute to coach Lenny Hyde, who played on a winning Clarendon team in 1977, when the late Winston Chung-Fah produced one of the finest schoolboy teams ever seen in Jamaica. In the middle of it all was Nique Daley, a young scorer of notable promise.

The result at the Montego Bay Sports Complex was a repeat of the 1998 final when a first-half Edward Barnes penalty gave Clarendon, and then coach Jackie Walters, a 1-0 win over Cornwall.

Then, as it was on Saturday, that match was played in Montego Bay. Then, as it was on Saturday, the Cornwall coach was the accomplished Dean Weatherly.

If the weekend games signalled the end of the season, I'd be happy. For me, the Champions Cup answers the question about the relative strength of schoolboy football in Kingston versus the rest of the country. If I had my way, the Champions Cup might even assume the name of the time-honoured season closing fixture.

As things stand, the Olivier Shield is the only prize left for Clarendon College and Kingston College to chase this season. In the Champions Cup, Cornwall broke the string of wins by Corporate Area schools by beating St George's in the semi-final, and JC in the final. With that in mind, Hyde and his boys may feel they can be the first rural school since 2006, when Glenmuir High and Bridgeport High shared the honours, to lift the shield.

Glenmuir were the outright all-island champion in 2004.

By the same token, with the long Manning Cup drought in the past, Bernard and his brave lads may now be able to play with freedom enough to win. It's an enticing prospect, even now, 119 years after JC won the first Olivier Shield. May the better team win.

If practice games carry any weight, the wise might fancy KC. The Purples reportedly beat both Clarendon and Cornwall in preseason warm-up games.

Leading their charges into Saturday's battle of poise and fortitude are two coaches, Hyde and Bernard, who have taken their licks, but have steadily proven their worth. Both are known for attacking football, so fans might be in for a treat. On Saturday, the tide will turn for one of them.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.