Nodley Wright, Gleaner Writer
That both Boys' Town and Harbour View are gunning for the prize money of $250,000 awarded to the winner of the Red Stripe Premier League first end-of-round final, is obvious. What isn't so obvious is that this game could be the road to redemption for a number of players and one in particular - Romeo Parkes.
Besides a belated birthday present to himself, the Boys' Town striker - who turned 22 yesterday - will be looking to work his way back into the Reggae Boyz squad with a strong performance at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex, in a showdown set to begin at 9 p.m.
Having narrowly missed qualifying for the Under-20 World Cup under the guidance of his cousin Donovan Duckie and bowing out early from the Olympic qualifiers with Alfredo Montesso in charge, Parkes had only the 'big' team to look to if he wanted to represent his country at the highest level.
An outstanding 2011/2012 season saw him called to the Reggae Boyz band for friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand in February.
"I had my first and only cap against Cuba in the first game at the National Stadium but did not play in the second. I also went to New Zealand when the team won 3-2 but I did not play," explained the 6'2" Parkes.
Disappointment in turkey
Immediately after his return from the February 29 game in New Zealand, Parkes headed to Turkey for a trial with Turkish club Alanyaspor. His two-month stay did not land him a contract and by the time he returned, the team had moved on with the technical staff settling on their local core and there was no love in it for Romeo.
"It is for me now to regain my form, start scoring goals again and really showing what I have," said Parkes, whose departure saw a dip in Tivoli Gardens' form towards the end of last season as the goals dried up.
"Right now, I know it is tougher to get into the national squad with the work done by the players who have qualified for the next round, but if I do well in this game for Boys' Town, help them to a win and continue into the second round, then I should be able to force my way into the Digicel Cup squad for next month," added the player who previously represented St Georges Sports Club and Highgate.
But while Parkes will be aiming to take centre stage, the spotlight is already on his clubmate, Rafiek Thomas, the competition's leading scorer and his former teammate, Damion Harwood, who represents Harbour View and is on fire with four goals from his last four games. Both players are seen as key to victory for their team.
Harwood has struck up a fine partnership with the magical Jermaine Hue and will be aiming to continue providing the finishing touches to the service that will definitely come from Hue.
Coach Vin Blaine's guidance off the field and Hue's leadership on it have lifted Harbour View to the top of the league on 25 points and an unbeaten run of five games following their loss to Boys' Town last month.
"We are positive, we are going into this looking to avenge that loss.
"We have five straight wins, but we try to take it one game at a time and if we play the type of football we have been playing all season, I am confident we will have a good result," Blaine promised.
Today's game will be Boys' Town's first appearance in an end-of-round final in three years. On the last occasion, they lost 1-2 to Portmore United and only a significant improvement on their last game, a week ago, will see them winning.
"We always want to put on a show and we did not do that tonight. We want to apologise to the public," coach Andrew Price said last week after their draw with Portmore.
This week, things are looking up, he said.
"The camp is upbeat and ready to go. We want to keep a winning attitude and some consistency, so we are treating this game as a must-win," said the former Boys' Town representative.