Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
The 2012 Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/Gatorade/Digicel-sponsored daCosta Cup, the symbol of rural school football supremacy, began with great anticipation among the 70-odd participating schools and ended with great jubilation for the Patrick 'Jackie' Walters-coached Glenmuir High School, following their 1-0 win in the final over St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS).
It was the May Pen-based school's third daCosta Cup title, following wins in 2004 and 2006.
Today we look back at the competition that brought jeers and tears, joy and pain, but in the end success for the destined and damnation for the vanquished.
The four semi-finalists, STETHS, Frome Technical, Glenmuir and The Manning's School made for interesting pairings. Some enjoyed expected levels of success, others underachieved and still some overachieved in what was a tough competition that had no clear favourites.
STETHS, for example, were firmly crowd favourites after securing the Ben Francis knockout crown earlier. The might of the 'Russians' diminished as they gave up their hold on the title they held for two successive years. Paul Bogle High, with the outstanding Alvas Powell scoring at will; Garvey Maceo, Lennon and Manchester High schools, all looked like quality teams among the rest until they all faded.
Some flattered to deceive such as first-time Ben Francis finalists Grange Hill, whose never-say-die attitude endeared them to borderline supporters impressed with the style of play they brought to competition.
They, along with former 11-time champions Cornwall College, created enough spark, but in short bursts and eventually ran out of steam.
In the end, and though surprising to some, Glenmuir deserved it for more than one reason. But critical to their achievement - as pointed out by none other than coach Walters himself, is that no player in the squad repeated and additionally none were 'bought' to play for the school.
While the champions revelled in their hard-earned success, others still dream of the day when they too, will be among the select to have earned the title as daCosta Cup champions and based on this year's long list of pretenders, three schools stood heads and shoulders above the rest.
The Manning's School, led by the hugely impressive Melvin Blair, must be the most unlucky of all. After having come so close to being eliminated at the first group stage, they received a lifeline courtesy of Godfrey Stewart High School's defeat of one of the pre-tournament favourites, Petersfield High.
Paul Bogle, under the guidance of Richard Williams, steamrolled all and sundry in their way during the group stage then fell away like they were not even in the competition.
Manchester High looked unbeatable en route to the inter-zone round and were stopped in their tracks at the quarter-final stage, as did Garvey Maceo, who many thought could have replicated their lone title success of 2007.
A 'magisterial' run
The Aaron Lawrence-coached Manning's went on what the famed international football commentator, Ray Hudson, would call a 'magisterial' run, putting then title-holders Rusea's High to the sword in a dominant 3-0 beating and then tagging presumed favourites STETHS 2-0 to be identified as possible title contenders.
Cedric Titus then laid siege to that notion and duly brought them back to reality with a stinging come-from-behind 2-1 win, then in the semi-final Glenmuir turned the screws in a display that saw them sweeping aside the Westmoreland school to advance to the final against STETHS, who had to dig deep to see off another Westmoreland school, 2003 champions Frome Technical.
One after the other teams fell by the wayside, including defeats in the semi-final for Manning's and Frome, while Glenmuir and STETHS, buttressed by strong coaching cultures, made a date for the final, with Glenmuir emerging the unlikely, but deserved winners and will hold the title a full year before being asked to defend it in 2013.