Mon | Jan 30, 2023

Walker Cup final: Selassie seek first title, Tivoli look to end drought

Published:Friday | December 2, 2022 | 12:11 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Tivoli High  players Rameisha Rhoden (left) and Ryan-Oneil Francis.
Tivoli High players Rameisha Rhoden (left) and Ryan-Oneil Francis.
Haile Selassie High’s Jahwan Payne
Haile Selassie High’s Jahwan Payne
Haile Selassie High coach  Linval Dixon.
Haile Selassie High coach Linval Dixon.
Tivoli High School coach Christopher Nicholas.
Tivoli High School coach Christopher Nicholas.
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New Walker Cup champions will be crowned this afternoon, which could mean making history for one school and ending a title drought for another.

Haile Selassie High and Tivoli High will face each other in this afternoon’s ISSA/Digicel Walker Cup final at 3:30 at Sabina Park after both teams eliminated traditional strong schools in the process.

Haile Selassie High dispatched Wolmer’s Boys 1-0 in the semi-finals while Tivoli put many-time champions St George’s College out by the same scoreline.

The Linval Dixon-coached Haile Selassie are in their first final of any sort in their school history and could complete a glorious return to schoolboy football after sitting out the 2021 campaign because of COVID-19 complications.

After Tuesday’s semi-final win, Dixon described his team’s appearance in the final as unexpected, with the goal of getting past the second round and “taking it from there”. They have gone and made a deep run in the Manning Cup making it to the quarterfinals and are now on the brink of their first trophy in school history. What he guarantees, however, is that the team will continue to fight for its place among the best in schoolboy football in a season where it has overachieved.

“Haile Selassie didn’t get a lot of big ups. But we found out that we have some players than can go somewhere. They really dug deep this year. They really fought hard and naturally, we always believed that we will always improve each and every time we play,” Dixon said. “To be in a final is an amazing feeling for Selassie. We will continue to do the work and we will continue to move forward.”

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Haile Selassie dispatched reigning champions, St Catherine High, along the way and will rely on midfielder Jahwan Payne who Dixon has called instrumental to their season so far, having a hand in their quarterfinal and semi-final wins. For Tivoli, they hope to lift the Walker Cup for the first time since 2005. En route to the final, they dispatched Charlie Smith High in the quarterfinals and are looking for an opportunity, as head coach Christopher Nicholas describes it, to put Tivoli back on the schoolboy football map.

“This is what we are about, we are about to bring back the whole school community (into schoolboy success),” Nicholas said after their semi-final win. Tivoli attacker Ryan Oneil Francis said that it would mean a lot to a community that they feel indebted to for their support this season.

“It would a good feeling because we haven’t won it in a while. It would be very good for the community. When we have home or away matches the community always supports us so it would be a good feeling (to win it),” Francis said.