Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
The much-anticipated start of the 2013 LIME daCosta Cup schoolboy football season will take place at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, Catherine Hall, this afternoon, featuring a season-opening triple header - two daCosta Cup games and a Manning Cup encounter.
In the games down for contention, Manning Cup champion St George's College will meet Camperdown High in the 3:00 p.m. curtain-raiser. In the first of the daCosta Cup game, at 5:00 p.m., champions Glenmuir will play Denbigh High to open their title defence, while in the evening's final game, western team Cornwall College will battle Maldon High at 7 p.m.
While a number of schools will be eyeing the title, based on last season's results and preseason preparation, the western quartet of Rusea's High, Manning's School, Frome Technical, and St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) are likely to feature prominently in what should be an interesting title chase.
Of the many western schools, Western Focus has identified these four schools, which stand the best chance of lifting the coveted trophy on November 30.
Here are Western Focus' picks:
MANNING'S SCHOOL (1)
With almost their full complement of players back from last year's inspirational run to the semi-finals, where only a loss to the eventual winners, Glenmuir, could derail them, the Aaron Lawrence-coached Manning's School could be destined for a run at history. They could become only the third school from Westmoreland to win a daCosta Cup title, following Frome Technical (2003) and Godfrey Stewart (2005)."We don't want to be seen as favourites, but I think we can do some damage this year with the kind of team we have," Lawrence said.
"This is a good team, and having gone to the semi-finals last year, I am optimistic that the boys will want to do something special in going a step or two further this year. I see us having a good season," Lawrence added.
RUSEA'S HIGH (2)
Hanover-based Rusea's is one of the most storied schools in the history of local schoolboy football and ranks second only to rivals Cornwall College (11) for the number of daCosta Cup titles won, having held aloft the trophy 10 times.
They enter this season's title race as an unknown quantity but can never be written off, especially after their sub-par year in 2012. They could be among the contenders again this season, and having last won the title back to back in the 2010-2011 season, are sure to hold down a spot in the Western Focus Top Four prospects for this year.
"Last year, we fell short. This year, it will be even shorter in terms of aspiration as a number of players are no longer with us, but I realistically believe the second round will be our limit," reasoned the long-standing technical director, Emerson 'Diggy' Henry.
"We are in a complete rebuilding phase, so the emphasis has changed. Now, we are really looking at next year to be a force again," he said.
Will it be third time lucky for the Omar Wedderburn-coached St Elizabeth Technical High School? Their fans will be hoping so after coming ever so close to winning the big title twice in succession, losing to Rusea's in the 2011 and succumbing 1-0 at the final hurdle in 2012 to Glenmuir.
The 2012 season was not all lost as they secured another hold on the Ben Francis Cup, but they will feel they need to win the daCosta Cup to legitimise their long-standing status as one of the competition's better teams over the years, having last won the title in 2009.
"We are not as strong as last year, but I believe we still can be a force. We are in it to win it just like the other schools, so any number can play. But a good run is still not out of the question for us," said Wedderburn.
FROME TECHNICAL (4)
It's never easy playing the 2005 daCosta Cup champions Frome Technical, and this year will be no different. They are, according to football experts, one of the teams to beat in this year's edition and enter this year as true title aspirants.
They will want to prove that last year's semi-final run was no fluke and will be employing their style of football to recreate success in Zone B, where they will resume their rivalry with former champions Rusea's.
Another semi-final berth could be on the books for this team, and should all things go their way, a spot in the final is certainly not out of the question.
"I see us making the semi-finals again. It is going to be a tough season and the players are all ready, so I think based on the quality players we have, a last four will be a good result, although winning the title is not out of our reach," Frome Coach Marvin Quarry said.