The Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup gets under way this weekend with Lurgan College entertaining Strabane GS in the round robin series opener.
Last year it was Strabane who emerged from this phase, but most of those boys have moved on, making it a very young side now.
Lurgan have already beaten them this season, giving them a big psychological advantage.
Elsewhere in the Orchard County, RS Armagh — beaten only once this season — host BHS who were heavily beaten in their last game.
Eleven miles up the road from College Hill, Portadown College host Down HS.
Portadown clocked up an impressive win against Sullivan last weekend when the Busby brothers bagged most of their points although there were good performances from Josh McCullough, Adam McMaster and Thomas Halliday, too.
However, with players of the calibre of Matthew McKeown, Aaron Cairns, Stuart Orr and John Donnan, Down will be favourites.
Sullivan, who entertain Campbell College, will hope to avoid a repetition of last week’s display.
But because they are able to field the likes of Rory Scholes, Rob Haldane, Moss Rogers, Glenn Bailie, John Creighton and Chris Farrell, Campbell should win.
Methodist College versus Wallace HS at Pirrie Park should be a cracker. The Belfast giants have been on form of late, with their forwards to the fore. James Harrison, Dan Kerr and Oliver McCollum form a tough front row, with Ryan Annett, Gareth Gracey and Rory Winters offering vital support.
Behind, Matthew McFaul and Mark Gribben feed a quality back line.
But in David Scott, Jordan Heatley, Cal McIlwaine and Daniel Henry, Wallace — provided they perform — certainly have players capable of testing the home side.
Another very intersting pairing is Dalriada versus unbeaten Ballyclare HS in Ballymoney.
Having struggled against Carrickfergus GS in their last game when they were minus several key players, Dalriada will be up against it again with Ballyclare expected to be at full strength.
In nearby Ballymena, the Academy should see off Foyle and Londonderry College. With quality players like Caleb Morrison, Sam McNabney, Timothy Patton, Peter Wallace and Jack Fleming, Ballymena are able to pursue the dream of 15-man rugby.
Foyle’s Simon Chi, Chris Campbell and Ian Vance are in good form, too, though it would be an upset if they were to win away to the Schools’ Cup holders.
Larne GS — recently returned from Canada — host their fast-improving Carrickfergus GS rivals in an east Antrim derby.
Coleraine AI, heavily beaten in each of their previous two games, are at home to RS Dungannon who will be boosted following their win over Bangor GS who face Friends’ School.
Banbridge Academy are at home to Grosvenor GS whom they played last weekend in the Graham Trophy Tournament final which finished scoreless.
Rainey Endowed lost to BRA last week, but felt they deserved more from that match and this weekend they will be in north-east England as guests of RGS Newcastle and Gosforth HS.
Following their two matches, the Rainey party will attend the Newcastle United v Chelsea Barclay’s Premier League game at St James Park.
l Schools fixtures will be published in Rugby Ulster tomorrow.