Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Defending champions St George's College will kick off their defence of the ISSA/LIME/Manning Cup title when they oppose Camper-down High at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in Catherine Hall starting at 3 p.m.
Having secured the double, Manning Cup and Olivier Shield last season, the St George's camp will be confident, but under some pressure to repeat this feat.
The Neville 'Bertis' Bell-coached team will therefore be hoping to start their campaign on a winning note against Camperdown. The reigning champions, who have won four out of the last five Manning Cups, will be going in search of their 23rd hold on the coveted trophy.
"I am expecting my players to come and play a good game and ensure that we get all three points," said Marcel Gayle, assistant coach of St George's.
"The chemistry in the team is good and the players are pretty confident and they are ready to play," Gayle said. "We had a good preseason because we won some games, including St George's Cup, and this has also given us some confidence as well."
The North Street-based institution will be missing attacking players such as Andrew Lewis, Romario Jones, Kendon Anderson, Mark Brown, Paul Doyle, Zhelano Barnes, Rasheem Harris and goalkeeper Nico Campbell.
Gayle added that these players will certainly be missed but added that they will be relying on a total team effort throughout the season.
"They will be missed, but, as the champions, we are ready to go out and defend our title. We are not where we want to be at this point, but we are going to take it one game at time," Gayle said.
Cardel Benbow, Ryan Miller, Oshane Boothe, Amoy Brown and Shakeem Webb along with Martin Davis, who has returned from the Valencia Academy in Spain, will be the leading players for St George's.
On the other hand, Christopher Bender, coach of Camperdown, whose team made it to the quarter-finals of last year's competition, is expecting a good showing from his team in today's encounter.
"My team is focused and committed," said Bender. "The first game is always a difficult game to play, but we are satisfied with our preparations going into this game against St George's College," he said.
Bender added that it is going to be a very difficult game for his team and, therefore, they will have to work hard in all areas on the field in order to secure a positive result.
"The state of the team is good. St George's are the defending champions, and so we will be using this game as a bench mark to measure how competitive we will be this season," Bender pointed out.
Meanwhile, Mona and Pembroke Hall, who were both in Group F, have withdrawn from the competition while Eltham High have been added to the group.