Methody, St Patrick's Maghera and De La Salle Belfast pick up silverware in thrilling day of sporting passion
Schools provide outstanding entertainment at rugby Schools' Cup, GAA's MacRory Cup and football's Belfast Senior Cup
It was a new-look stadium – but the same old victorious story for Methody.
The rugby Schools' Cup has gone back to Belfast's Malone Road for a third consecutive year after the serial winners saw off first-time finalists Sullivan Upper 27-12 in a tough-fought decider.
Both sides thrashed it out in front of a raucous, screaming crowd at Ravenhill but the match ended in a record 37th cup victory for Methodist College in the St Patrick's Day showpiece.
Among the fans who had converged on the home of Ulster Rugby on school sport's biggest day of the year was a group of Methody old boys celebrating the anniversary of their own Schools' Cup win 30 years ago.
David Rowney (47), a doctor from Belfast who now lives in Scotland, was wearing the No 11 shirt when they beat Belfast Royal Academy in the final
He said he flew back to Northern Ireland specially to meet up with some of his 1984 team-mates.
"It was amazing being with the boys again and the game brought back memories for all of us; it was like it was yesterday," the father-of-three said.
"Sullivan are a very well-drilled side and they were very good indeed, but Methody were a little bit better all the way through and it showed.
"But it wasn't a one-sided final. There was a period in the second half when Methody lost their ground and Sullivan seemed to have the upper hand but, in the end, Methody were generally just a little bit better on all facets of play."
Another Methody alumnus and ex-rugby prop, Mark Elliott (46) from Ballyhackamore, said the atmosphere at yesterday's final was fantastic. "We really enjoyed it and it was great to see Methody win again," said Mark, a substitute back in 1984.
"It was brilliant to see people we hadn't seen in 30 years – and to mark the occasion with a victory."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness took to social media to congratulate the Malone Road giants on their success.
He tweeted: "Methody, well done on winning the Schools Cup – commiseration to Sullivan Upper."
Sullivan had gone into the game bolstered by support from snowboarder Aimee Fuller, just back from the Sochi Winter Olympics, and golf superstar Rory McIlroy, both former pupils.
Elsewhere, favourites St Pat's Maghera won GAA's MacRory Cup with a 1-12 to 1-8 victory over Omagh CBS at Armagh.
St Pat's coach Paul Hughes said it meant a lot to win the "marvellous competition" – not just for the school but for the south Derry community.
"There is a great spirit within the side, a tremendous level of honesty and it's terrific that qualities like this have now been rewarded," he said.
And on the football pitch, De La Salle clinched a first Belfast Senior Cup success since 2010 with a comeback victory over St Mary's Grammar School in the decider at New Grosvenor.
The Edenmore Drive outfit defeated fellow west Belfast school St Mary's to win the trophy for a record eighth time.
De La Salle coach Stephen Killyleagh said: "They're a good bunch of guys. After conceding an early goal they looked pretty nervous.
"But fair play to them, they got stuck in and I think, in the end, they deserved it."
"It's what you dream of when you come into school in first year, to walk up those steps with your mates and lift it up. It's unbelievable to win three in a row; we expect to win the Schools' Cup every time, but three in a row is special."
Methody captain Michael Lagan