The seventh cash- splitting County Meet is expected to kick-off this Saturday, with traditionally, all of the 15 Counties, battling for the gold. But who are the favorites in the preliminary?
Unlike the past, sports lovers would just toss the dice and predict the preliminaries’ favorites that could become a reality; but this year’s fixture has been de-regionalized with counties from either the west, southeast and central or north pulling to a site to gain qualification for the finals in Monrovia at the ‘always record crowded’ Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex.
In Group I, with Grand Bassa County being the host and part of a three-member Group, the Gbehzohn boys will certainly begin the campaign with phenomenal start as well as an advantage at the Doris Williams Sports Stadium in Buchanan, Grand Bassa. Bassa has an overwhelming record of graduating from the 1st round though not ‘lucky’ to reach the grand finals in the last eight years.
The Tubmanburg boys practically put up a surprising show four years ago and locked down the championship, which brought smile on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in appreciation to her county heroes.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, Grand Kru County was the “Marvel of County Meet Football,” but after the resumption of the County Meet in 2004, Grand Kru was noted only for crossing over the first round, which up to present has been its peak. Being the only record-triumph county in the County Meet, Grand Kru is the second favorite in Group II.
The second group is mostly tense in term of qualification from the 1st round owing to the members: Montserrado, Grand Gedeh, Maryland and host, Bong County. The Pleebo boys of Maryland are the least amongst the group, with worst performance in eight years in comparison to the group’s members. The Tuzon boys of Grand Gedeh have reached the finals twice in 2007 and 2010, but lost in similar goal-margin, 2-0. They have been impressive amongst the Southeastern Counties, unlike Sinoe who managed to reach the semi-finals only last year. Grand Gedeh is the first favorite, and is able to lock the horns at the David Kuyon Sports Stadium in Gbarnga, Bong County.
The most populated county, Montserrado County has been ‘very unlucky’ in the County Meet, unlike in the 1960s. But, Montserrado County’s last performance led them to emerge as the runner-up, in the narrow 1-1 pulsating draw that ended in a lottery shot. One could say it’s a comeback from the 1960s, which could have made them one of the favorites, but the 2008 County Meet winners, Bong, who are also the host, have been reasonably full of confidence for the next round. It’s enough to make their supporters dream the seemingly possible qualification with their home-advantage.
Group III is definitely an easy ‘cross over’ for defending champs Grand Cape Mount County and 2012 County Meet champs, Margibi County. The likes of Lofa and River Gee Counties may likely not make a great difference, though the games will be played at Voinjama Sports Stadium in Voinjama, Lofa, this could not ‘positvely affect’ Lofa County.
Sinoe County’s zone is the second tensely contented group with the host, Gbarpolu, Nimba and Rivercess Counties, seated in Group IV.
The 2010 and 2011 winner, Nimba County, has claimed more titles in the eight years and is inarguably the most favorite to emerge as one of the two qualifiers at the James E. Green Sports Stadium.
Gbarpolu County emerged winner in 2004 after the resumption of the County Meet and has since been mostly stopped in the preliminary rounds, while Rivercess won the 2007 title and settled as runner-up in 2008 County Meet. The Cestos and Bopolu boys have been struggling since then to restore their image. It’s most likely that both might not surpass host Sinoe County, whose recent record showed their improvement, evidently of reaching the semi finals.