Belfast Telegraph

Goodwill and imagination could have spared heartache for young rugby team missing out on Schools' Cup dream

Editor's Viewpoint

Many will sympathise with the Friends' School Lisburn squad who will miss today's scheduled game against Belfast Royal Academy in the quarter-final of the rugby Schools' Cup, which will not take place.

The Friends' players are on a skiing holiday which was arranged long before they earned the chance to play in the quarter-final. They attempted to meet their obligations by having the game postponed, but the Ulster Schools Committee (USC), which says the game cannot be rescheduled, has remained firm on the matter.

It has expressed sympathy but has pointed out that the school signed up last November to honour the terms and conditions of the competition.

Rules are rules, and the dates were set long ago.

Naturally, the USC does not want to set a precedent, but the narrative around Friends' is compelling and emotive.

This is a team which has probably surprised itself by getting so far in the Schools' Cup, and it has reached this stage in the tournament for the first time in seven years.

Friends' opponents, BRA, are happy to abide by any decision, and it is unfortunate to see a young group of players losing out in this way.

As the former Ulster and Ireland player Stephen Ferris points out, this would, for the team, be like playing in a Heineken Cup final, and many of the Friends' squad may not get such an opportunity again. There is also heartache for the family of Bernadette Beckett whose husband died recently from a heart attack. Her son, Owen, is a member of the Friends' team, and she pointed out his late father Nevin would have been excited and proud to see them play.

People will take different views of this unfortunate collision of dates, but it is a pity that, with a little more goodwill and imagination, the matter was not resolved.

The Friends' players will have learned a tough lesson, and all other schools will be taking note of what has happened, and take steps to avoid similar disappointment.

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