What an electrifying season it has been with a new champion crowned in both the Manning Cup and daCosta Cup competitions. Congrats to Kingston College, who won their 15th urban title, and Clarendon College, who lifted their seventh daCosta Cup. Incidentally, it is the first Manning and daCosta Cup titles for both Ludlow Bernard and Lenworth Hyde, who will go head-to-head for the Olivier Shield this Saturday, the curtain closer.
What will be critical in this game is how excited the coaches can get these boys as they step down from the euphoria of last week and step back on to the battlefield for the showdown. That's a tall order, but both teams are capable. I was quite impressed when Kingston College's captain, Casseam Priestly, in an interview conducted after the Manning Cup final last week, mentioned looking forward to the Olivier Shield.
Now, while the Olivier Shield holds significance in settling the annual dispute as to whether the rural or the urban team claims national supremacy, this year seems a little different. It's not quite an urban vs rural showdown, in my estimation, because Clarendon College unit mainly comprises of non-rural players. Of the usual starting 11, only four players - Sanjay Williams, Javel Ellis, Ricardo McIntosh and Kenroy Stoddart - hail from rural Jamaica. But such is the composition of high-school teams across Jamaica these days.
Kingston College's Ari Rodgers was instrumental in their 2018 campaign and was the most outstanding player in a few of their matches. Of course, Rodgers hails from as far as Uganda.
The team from Chapelton Hill in Clarendon has won two of the 38 Olivier Shield titles that have gone to the rural area to date, while Kingston College has won seven of the urban area's 57 Olivier shields. Historically, it would be fair to say the urban players dominate, especially in recent times, as the last out and out rural champion was Glenmuir High 14 years ago.
The Olivier Shield should be a good game as these are two good ball-playing teams. Defensively, Kingston College is solid, but Clarendon's Lamar Walker and Nicque Daley won't be easy to contain. Nicque Daley is not only big, strong and skilful, he has scored for Clarendon on every single occasion that he has taken to the field this season. Daley accounts for some 21 goals, while Lamar Walker has contributed 10. Clarendon must be looking to end the season undefeated.
Kingston College will be without the injured Ari Rodgers, but they have capable replacements on the bench in the likes of Trayvon Reid or Dwayne Atkinson. Roster to roster, I give Kingston College the edge merely for having the better players right across the park. Should Ludlow Bernard stick to his usual starters, look out for an intense battle in midfield with the likes of Nathan Thomas, Casseam Priestly and Shaquille Smith going head-to-head with Clarendon's Lamar Walker, Javel Thomas, and Kenroy Stoddart.
It's as always anybody's match for the taking. May the better team win. One Love.