Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Semi-Final Preview 5th March 2015
The second Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final sees two of the pre-tournament favourites; Methodist College, Belfast and Wallace High School, meet at the same stage as they did last season.
The Methodist College team came through that encounter successfully before going on to win the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup for the third time in a row. This season they will be hoping for a repeat performance to enable them to have a chance of making it “four in a row” Many neutral observers would suggest the Methodist College team is maybe not as complete a team as they have been in recent seasons. However, this season they seem to have hit Schools’ Cup form at just the right time. Team coaches Nicky Wells and Stephen Lindsay have the benefit of a wealth of Schools’ Cup winning experience behind them. They will no doubt pass that experience on to their young charges. There is an abundance of talent within the Methodist College ranks. Team captain, Saul Herdman, is a talented player who seems to be as equally at home in the front row as he is when playing in the backrow. He forms an impressive front row trio alongside Ben O’Reilly and the ever improving Alex McAllister. The second row partnership of Ryan Cullen and Scott McClelland is an effective unit who work hard at set piece time and secure more than their fair share of lineout possession. Matthew McKinney brings the experience he gained with the Ulster U19 team, earlier in the season, to the Methody pack while Zach Jordan and Dan Coulter are never far away from the ball. If the Methody pack can win their fair share of ball the Methody backs are more than happy to make effective use of the possession. Danny Gray and Gareth Millar are able to keep their team on the front foot as well as keeping the opposition back row defence honest. Ali McIvor and Matthew Jamison are an attack minded midfield duo that is more than keen to contribute effectively to the defensive duties as well. In Josh Jordan, Conor Kelly and Robert Lyttle there is a very astute and dynamic back three trio. Quite a few of these players will come under the microscope of the various Irish Age Grade management teams who hope to be in attendance at the game.
It will not only be players from the Methodist College team that will attract the attention of members of Irish Age Grade Management teams in the course of this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final game. The Wallace High School team has a large number of potential Ireland Schools’ and Ireland U19 players available for selection. They will see themselves as favourites to win this game and their record this season speaks for itself. They are undefeated so far this season and their victories include a convincing win against the Methodist College team on the Pirrie Park Paddock Pitch earlier in the season. They deserved that win; there was nothing lucky or fortunate about it. They outplayed their rivals on that occasion and will hope to do so, once again, on Thursday. Two seasons ago many of the Wallace HS squad played in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Medallion Shield final. Last season their 2ndxv won the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ 2ndxv Cup and the 1stxv reached the semi-final of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. The Wallace High School players have built up a lot of positive experiences from their participation in these games. Quite a few of their players have represented Ulster at Schools and U19 levels. Some have been involved with Ireland Schools’ camps and trial games in the post-Christmas period. All these experiences can only but impact positively on the Wallace High School squad. They will need to be positive as they prepare for what will be the biggest game of their season so far. The Wallace High School coaching team of Derek Suffern and Neil Hinds will leave nothing to chance as they prepare their players for this game. Team captain, Sam Moore knows only one way to lead his team and that is from the front. He will remind his players they might not have fulfilled their undoubted potential with their performance in the previous round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup against Ballyclare High School. There seemed to be nervousness within the Wallace High School ranks in the course of that game. Sam will remind his team that any such nerves against a Methodist College team will be exposed. Ryan Wilson, Jonny Stewart, Andrew Cardosi, Ben Finlay, Philip Hylands, Neil Kilpatrick and Ben Pentland have all gained representative honours for the Wallace High School team. That experience should enable these players to approach this game with confidence and ensure they carry the tag of favourites positively into this game.
This Danske Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final game is scheduled to kick off at 3-00pm on Thursday 5th March at the Kingspan Stadium.
The draw for the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-finals has thrown up two intriguing encounters with the Coleraine Academical Institution team meeting their Belfast “cousins” from Royal Belfast Academical Institution on Tuesday 3rd March and Methodist College, Belfast meeting Wallace High School, a repeat of one of last season’s semi-finals, on Thursday 5th March at the Kingspan Stadium.
When the draw at Coleraine AI for the first of these games took place there was an air of delight from the Coleraine AI team which suggested they were overjoyed at the prospect of meeting the Royal Belfast Academical Institution team in the first of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-finals. The Coleraine players will realise they will need to raise the bar, as far as performance levels are concerned, if they are to have any chance of defeating the Belfast Inst team in the semi-final. The Coleraine AI team, coached by Richard Beggs and Stephen Douglas, will, in all likelihood, not really need any motivational speeches prior to the game, to get them in the correct frame of mind as they prepare for the game. This will be the last meeting of a Coleraine Academical Institution team against a Royal Belfast Academical Institution team in an Ulster Schools’ Cup match. The Coleraine AI School is due to amalgamate with Coleraine Girls’ High School to form Coleraine Grammar School come September 2015. The Coleraine AI players will be going all out to ensure this game will not be the last time they play together under that illustrious title. Captained by Peter Bonnar, quite a few of the players experienced the agony of going out of the competition at the semi-final stage last season. They will not wish for a repeat performance this season. They started off very well against the Omagh Academy team in the previous round. They had opened up a comfortable 15-3 lead, midway through the first half, only to have that lead pegged back to 15-9 by the interval.
The Omagh team dominated the game for large periods in the second half and somehow managed to miss a number of penalty opportunities that might have put a different complexion of the eventual outcome of the game had the kicks been successful. The Coleraine AI team cannot afford to let the same thing happen in this semi-final. Peter Bonnar will look to the experienced players in his pack such as David McAllister, David Greatorex and Mac O’Neill in the front row, Alistair Corbett and Jack McCarroll in the second row, and the breakaway trio of himself, Oliver McDowell and Peter Weisener to gain parity in all aspects of forward play if they are to have any chance of winning the game. Their backline will require a good amount of quality possession against the Belfast Inst team if the Coleraine team is to have any chance of using the wide open spaces of the Kingspan Stadium effectively. Bruce Campbell and Callum Smith form a talented half back pairing for the Coleraine team. In Matthew Norris and Andrew Weisener they have a centre partnership that has caused opposition teams quite a few problems during the season. Thomas Lavery, Matthew Smyth and Niall Cameron love to get the ball in their hands and, if they do so, the opposition defenders will need to be well-organised. When the opposition have the ball the Coleraine AI defence will need to display a greater efficiency than they did, at times, against the Omagh Academy team. First up tackles will be vital as will discipline at the breakdown so that needless penalties are not conceded. There is a great desire and passion amongst the Coleraine Academical Institution players and coaches to make history in the course of this game. It will take an extra special effort from everyone concerned if they are to do so.
The Royal Belfast Academical Institution players and coaches will be focused solely on one objective as they prepare for this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final game. This is to ensure they take, what they feel to be, their rightful place at the Kingspan Stadium on St Patrick’s Day. Team coaches, Dan Soper and Richard Hedley, have a very talented squad of players at their disposal. Such is the talent available; the final selections made are going to be difficult. There is a great deal of both youth and experience with the Royal Belfast Academical Institution camp. Year 12 player, Michael Lowry, is rapidly developing as one of the most talented players to have come through any school in the province in years. When he is on song, his team are on song! The Belfast Inst pack, with team captain, Lewis McNamara leading from the front, is a very effective unit. On their day they feel they are a match for any school team they have played against. The loss of Charlie Fryers, to an ankle injury in the previous round, could be keenly felt. However, his team mates in the Belfast Inst pack will be doing their best to overcome his non availability. John Dickson, Ethan Harbinson, Patrick Nicholas, Mark Mairs and Ryan McComiskey will all raise their game to ensure the quality possession demanded by their talented back division is assured. Players such as TJ Morris, James Hume, Jack Conlin, Callum McLaughlin, Ryan Campbell and Conor Field, if available, have all benefitted from the decision making skills of Michael Lowry. In the previous round James Hume left the field of play to tend to an injury. On came Ben McGavock who took advantage of a clever piece of play involving Michael Lowry and Callum McLaughlin which finished with Ben scoring the try that finally put paid to any chance the RS Armagh team had of mounting a revival. The Royal Belfast Academical Institution team missed out on a semi-final slot in last season’s Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. They have one this season and will be going all out to take full advantage of the circumstances in which they find themselves this season.
This Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final is scheduled to kick off at 2-30pm on Tuesday 3rd March at the Kingspan Stadium.