Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final Preview Tuesday 17th March 2020

Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final Preview Tuesday 17th March 2020 The Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final has brought together the Royal School, Armagh team and the Wallace High […]

Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final Preview Tuesday 17th March 2020

The Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final has brought together the Royal School, Armagh team and the Wallace High School team, in what only can be described as an intriguing combination, to contest the “Blue Riband” occasion of Ulster Schools’ Rugby at the Kingspan Stadium on St Patrick’s Day.
This will be the first time since 1994 that no school from Belfast will be involved in the Ulster Schools’ Cup Final. On that occasion the game featured Wallace High School and Regent House with the Regent House School team winning.
The Royal School, Armagh team has had the most challenging series of games en route to the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final. Their Last Sixteen game saw them see of the not-inconsiderable challenge of Campbell College, Belfast with a relatively comfortable 34-6 victory. Next up they were on the road to face another of the “Top Six” seeded teams at Ballymena Academy. The Armagh team showed dogged determination in coming through that game with a 17-14 victory. Following that success it was a visit to the Kingspan for their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final game against yet another of the “Top Six” seeded teams, Royal Belfast Academical Institution. At 22-5 down going into the final quarter of that game it seemed that the Royal School, Armagh team might have lost the chance of playing in the final of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup final this season. However, the team staged a remarkable come back and won the game by 29-22 which has given them the opportunity of playing the most favoured of the “Top Six” seeded teams, Wallace High School, in this intriguing and eagerly anticipated Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final.

The Royal School, Armagh team exited the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup at the semi-final stage last season against Campbell College, Belfast. With most of that team still available there is a steely determination among the Royal School, Armagh squad to go at least one step further this season. The team has achieved that aim and displayed great character having come through three difficult games in the previous rounds. The Royal School, Armagh team is coached by Chris Parker and Willie Faloon, two young men emerging quickly as very talented coaches. Both Willie and Chris know that when the going gets tough they can call upon the sage wisdom and grandfatherly advice of Kenny Hooks, a man never far away from the rugby action in the Royal School, Armagh, to help them out. Willie, as coach of the Ulster Schools’ team, will have a great deal of insight into quite a few of the Wallace High School players as to how they perform in a pressurised set up. Chris is a former pupil of Wallace High School and will be more than keen to ensure his Alma Mater will not be winning the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup on St Patrick’s Day.
The Royal School, Armagh team has Sam Rainey, an Ulster U19 player, as captain. Sam has led the team in a quiet but effective manner throughout the season. Sam was a try scorer against Ballymena Academy and he put in a very positive performance in the course of that game. His leadership skills, allied to an outstanding performance in the semi-final against the Royal Belfast Academical Institution team, shone through in that game and Sam will be hoping for a similar outcome in the final. The squad now has a large number of Year 14 players and, with only two Year 12 players likely to be part of the squad, it is hoped this experienced team will, once again, step up to the mark as they continue with their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaign. Their top try scorer is Ethan McAtarsney, a full back, who is more than useful with the ball in hand as well as off the tee. Jude Robert scored tries in their recent Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup games and Romain Morrow is another fine place kicker who will kick the penalties and conversions given the chance as he has proved so effectively against the Campbell College, Ballymena Academy and Belfast Inst teams. Charlie Worth – Ireland U18 7’s Captain and Ulster U19 player- is another of the Royal School, Armagh backs the Wallace High School defence will need to monitor closely. Charlie excelled in the course of the semi-final game and will wish to add to his growing reputation in the final. Josh King and Ryan Finlay have been involved with the Ulster U18 Schools’ squad and were very much to the fore with their performances in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ semi-final. Chris Whiteside is the Head Boy in the Royal School, Armagh team and his leadership qualities can clearly be seen in the way in which he works with his colleagues in the Royal School, Armagh back division. Ross Taylor could be joined by his brother, Peter, on the team and the Cunningham brothers, Sam and Josh, will be hoping to be selected together for this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup final game.
It is probably quite a long period of time since any school team has had the mantle of favourites to win the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup tagged to them so firmly as the current Wallace High School team. This is an outstanding squad of players who have come through to the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup relatively unhindered following their last three games. The Wallace High School team were comfortable winners against the Bangor Grammar School team in their “Last Sixteen” game, had to work a little harder before overcoming the Enniskillen Royal Grammar School team in the quarter-final which set up a Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ semi-final clash with Methodist College, Belfast. It was the Methody team that defeated the Wallace High School at the same stage of the competition last season but that did not faze the Wallace High School team this season. The Wallace team won that game with maybe a little to spare and the scene has been set for their epic,game against the Royal School, Armagh team in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Final this season.

The Wallace High School team has come unscathed through their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaign having won impressively against a very committed Bangor Grammar School team and a very talented Enniskillen Royal Grammar School team in the previous rounds of the competition. Those two wins, against two teams that set out to cause shock results in their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup games against Wallace High School, have only confirmed in the minds of many people that this Wallace High School team can be seen as out and out favourites to win the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup this season. The draw for this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final saw this season’s favourites playing against last season’s winners, and the team that exited Wallace High School from the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup at the semi-final stage last season, Methodist College, Belfast. Having come through that challenging encounter, and having already defeated the Royal School, Armagh team earlier in the season, it is not difficult to understand why everyone involved with the Wallace High School team would see themselves as favourites to lift the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup.
The Wallace High School team coaches, Derek Suffern and Ian Latham, who receive great support from experienced colleagues such as Neil Hinds and Alan Monteith, have, at their disposal, an exceptionally talent squad of players. The team is captained by their ultra talented back row forward, Reuben Crothers. Reuben has captained the Ulster U19 team and been involved in Ireland U18 Schools’ camps this season. Reuben has captained the Wallace High School team to seventeen victories out of twenty games and only a couple of those losses have been against schools from Ulster. One of those victories was against the Royal School, Armagh team back in November which will confirm to Reuben and his team mates that they will be seen as clear favourites to win this game. Ben Carson, a player who has been involved with both Ulster and Ireland Schools’ squads this season, is the leading try scorer on the Wallace High School team. Ben is a very talented, hard running, centre who has asked questions of the defence of every team he has played against this season, including the Methodist College, Belfast defence in the semi-final. Joel Dundas, a player equally at home in a number of positions, was involved with the Ulster U19 team as was Peter Heasley, a back row break down specialist. Jamie McNeight, their Will o’ the Wisp full back, who was outstanding in the semi-final, and Finn Rankin, their flying winger, have been involved with the Ulster Schools’ U18 squad as has Charlie Irvine who has also attracted the attention of the Ireland Schools’ U18 Management team. However, the real star among this talented group of Wallace High School players is Nathan Doak. This young emerging talent is equally at home in either of the half back positions and was unavailable to play for the Wallace High School team earlier in the season due to his outstanding performances with the Ulster “A” team in the Celtic Cup when that team reached the final. Already capped by Ireland Schools Nathan has been involved with the Ireland U19 set up already this season. Nathan’s brother, Cameron, has acquitted himself more than well in the course of the season and brings his own strengths to the powerful Wallace High School pack. Cameron displayed outstanding performances in the previous games against the Enniskillen Royal Grammar School and Methodist College teams. All these players shone with their performances against Bangor Grammar School and were at their rampant best when they played Enniskillen Royal Grammar School at their Clonevin Park venue in the quarter-final of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. They relished the thought of playing Methodist College in the semi-final at the Kingspan Stadium and came through that game more than successfully. Having already defeated the Royal School, Armagh team earlier in the season and, when the combined talents of this Wallace High School team are looked at, it is not difficult to see why the Wallace High School players have the mantel as favourites to win the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup this season so firmly attached to them.