Mona down STGC 2-1 to make first ever Manning Cup final

By November 24, 2023
Mona's Head coach Craig Butler Mona's Head coach Craig Butler

Mona High School will contest their first ever ISSA/Digicel Manning Cup final after they downed their more fancied rivals St George’s College 2-1 in a keenly contested semi-final encounter at Sabina Park on Friday.

The dynamic duo of Romarion Thomas (39th) and Denzel McKenzie (56th), got the job done for the Craig Butler-coached team, which had over the past two seasons placed the competition on notice in terms of their improved quality and, by extension, ambitions to stop all that came before them.

In fact, it was an 42nd-minute own-goal by Mona High’s goalkeeper Ackeem Bernard that placed St George’s College on the scoresheet, and that Butler said spoke to their defensive fortitude, particularly in the second half.

Mona will meet the winner of the second semi-final between Kingston College and Hydel High.

“It should be a staple for any intelligent team, you have to have that component in your artillery, and we used it well. The boys played out their hearts and we are totally elated, the boys put in a lot of hard work and to get there (in the final), I am really happy for them,” an emotional Butler said in a post-game interview.

Following a stellar performance against Clarendon College in the Champions Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday, expectations would have been high that a repeat of that effort, would be good enough to put St George’s College into a long overdue final.

However, Mona with the fresher legs, used it to good effect, as they started brightest and caused a few early problems for St George’s defence, but failed to capitalise on the half chances.

It was not until the backend of the half that the deadlock was eventually broken when a long diagonal ball found Thomas, who made no mistakes from close range for his ninth goal of the season.

St George’s College pulled level three minutes later when Zabir Taylor was allowed time and space at the top of the 18-yard box to pick a spot and curl a right-footed effort that came off the crossbar and then off Bernard on its way in, to keep the game evenly poised 1-1 at the break.

Much like they did at the start, Mona were again more spirited at the top of the resumption, and regained the lead 11 minutes in, when McKenzie drove home a thumping right-footed freekick from inside the arc, and D’Jone Davis in goal for St George’s College, had no chance.

With that, his 11th goal of the season, McKenzie and company seemed content with the lead and dropped deep into their quarters where they were defiant in keeping their North Street-based opponents at bay and seal the historic feat.

For Neville “Bertis” Bell, his team was somewhat a shadow of itself when compared to their Champions Cup showing. Still, he took heart from their accomplishments this season when compared to last season, which ironically also ended with quarterfinal defeat to Mona High.

“It is always tough to lose any game, whether it is a semi-final or not, but we just didn’t do enough. But I am very proud of these kids, we did one better than last year, last year we ended fifth…never made the semi-final or the Champions Cup, so hopefully next year we will do even better. But congrats to Mona, they worked hard, and I wish them and the other finalist good luck,” Bell said.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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