It’s all in for All-Ireland
Ballymena Academy and Foyle & Londonderry College will both be heading to Dublin later this month for the ESB Kate Russell All-Ireland schools championships no matter who wins this afternoon’s Belfast Telegraph Bank of Ireland Ulster Schools’ Cup decider.
Royal School Armagh’s success in landing the all-Ireland title last season means that the winning province automatically gets two entries into the six-team championships this term.
And so the Ballymena girls and the Foyle girls can concentrate on the Ulster final at Lisnagarvey (2pm) knowing that, whatever the outcome, they’ll still be part of the all-Ireland series which will be televised by Setanta at Three Rock Rovers’ Grange Road ground from March 19 to March 20.
The Ulster winners have been pooled with the winners of the Munster final (either Bandon Grammar or Colaiste Na Toirbhirte) and the winners of the South East final (either Loreto Wexford or Loreto Kilkenny).
The runners-up will be pooled with the Leinster final winners and Connacaht winners Colaiste Iognaid.
But pride, and the Ulster trophy, is at stake at Garvey this afternoon, so expect a close affair.
In one corner is the Foyle team who have won the trophy on just one occasion but who knocked out holders Royal School Armagh in the semi-finals.
Captained by Megan Frazer, a talented schoolgirl who has already been capped at senior Irish international level, they know what is expected of them and are determined to deliver in front of a large crowd.
It was Megan who scored the only goal of the game in that semi-final success over Armagh and who makes them tick from midfield.
In the other corner is Ballymena Academy, a school with eight previous successes in the final.
Now inspired by coach Jackie McWilliams who won Olympic bronze with Great Britain in a glittering career, they’ve just returned from a trip to Scotland which has set them up nicely for what lies ahead.
They beat Strathearn 2-0 in the semi-finals with goals from Catherine McGivern (above) and Ciara Corbett, and captain Laura Robinson will be looking for more of the same against their North West opponents.