Clash of the Titans - JC vs KC, STATHS vs Wolmer’s in Manning Cup semis
Jamaica College’s (JC) path towards a 30th Manning Cup title will go through defending champions Kingston College (KC) in the feature game of the ISSA/Digicel Manning Cup semi-final double- header at the National Stadium today at 5:00 p.m.
In the early kick-off at 3:00 p.m. St Andrew Technical (STATHS) will continue their quest towards their first Manning Cup title since 1987 when they face Wolmer’s Boys, a team also in the midst of their own title drought, having last claimed urban supremacy in 1994.
JC’s head coach, Devion Ferguson, will hope to follow in the footsteps of Miguel Coley, who took the ‘Dark Blues’ to glory in his first season in 2013, beginning a period of dominance for the Old Hope Road-based school that saw him win five consecutive titles.
Ferguson, formerly at St Jago, is insistent that he won’t compare his team or himself to that period, but says that the team is focused on the task at hand.
“The main pressure is the pressure that we put on ourselves within [the] group. We set our targets. We really want to be in the final, and we are one game away from being in the final,” Ferguson told The Gleaner. “That is enough pressure to do it for ourselves and, by extension, the school community.”
Ferguson took over from Andrew Peart in April and has steered the many-time champions towards their seventh straight semi-final. They swept the first round topping their group scoring a massive 54 goals. Only Wolmer’s have scored more in the first round (57). The team has overcome many challenges throughout the season. Nickashe Murray and Terrance Francis were struck by lightning during their feature group game on September 16. After cruising through the group stages and the second round, they advanced to the semi-finals by the skin of their teeth despite losing their final quarter-final group game to already qualified STATHS thanks to Excelsior and St George’s playing to a draw in the other group finale, which gave them the edge on goal difference.
Meanwhile, the Ludlow Bernard-coached KC fought their way to the last four overcoming Camperdown High in their final quarter-final group game. It will be the second meeting between the schools in four days since Bernard’s side eliminated Jamaica College on penalties in the ISSA Champions Cup semi-final last Saturday.
Bernard expects a difficult encounter but believes that his team has the fortitude to make a return trip to the final.
“It’s going to be difficult, but I think it’s still a winnable game,” Bernard said. “These boys have displayed a lot of heart and tenacity throughout the course of the campaign. They always seem to be finding results when it seems to be difficult.”
Kingston College last secured back-to-back titles in 1985/86, but Bernard hopes that this group, particularly their first time players, will be able to make their own mark on Manning Cup history.
Maintaining a legacy
“We just want to get out there and do our best, and if our best takes us to being back-to-back champions, then of course, the players would have established a legacy of their own,” Bernard added. “I think for now, most of the players who are first-time Manning Cup players are looking forward to creating their own legacy.”
STATHS, one of the other favourites for the title, are targeting a return trip to the Manning Cup final to continue their quest to end their 31-year wait for a schoolboy title. The Philip Williams-coached unit are in their third straight semi-final, with their last trip to the final coming in 2017, when they lost on penalties to Jamaica College.
Alex Thomas’ Wolmer’s are back in the final four after falling at the quarter-final hurdle last year and will be looking to crown a solid season with a spot in the trophy match.