Old Belfast rivalry just the ticket to get the half-term break off to a flying start
Forget half-term breaks — Royal Belfast Academical Institution versus Methodist College on Saturday morning at Osborne Park overrides time off school!
While the hosts will be without Ben Alexander and Michael Kilpatrick who have been called into Irish Schools’ U18 and Ireland U19 Development squads for a screening camp in Dublin, Paddy Bell, Conor Neill, Michael Mairs, Matthew McGuigan and Nathan Dougan are available.
Methody — boosted by victory over Rodney O’Donnell-coached St Mary’s College in their last game — will look to captain Dan Kerr and Matthew McFaul for inspiration as they, too, will lose players to that Dublin screening camp. Should be a cracker.
Another of the Belfast giants, Campbell College, entertain Bangor GS.
The hosts, fresh from last weekend’s success in the St Joseph’s College Rugby Festival in Ipswich, will be without Dublin-bound Charles Gallagher and maybe John Creighton.
Bangor’s Craig Harper, Karl Lamont and Stuart McCloskey will aim to make the most of that.
Belfast Royal Academy will be at home, too — and in their case at full strength for the visit of RS Dungannon.
Ballymena Academy beat BRA last weekend and that will have hurt boys like Ryan Clarke, Eoin Devlin, Matthew Robinson and Mark Wylie whose aim will be to bounce back against opponents deprived of Peter Nelson’s services.
But RSD are no one-man team; Derek Martin, Gary Wong and Andrew Clingan certainly are capable of doing damage.
In boys like Caleb Morrison, Peter Wallace, George Hargy and Tim Patton, Ballymena Academy also have much to offer as Saturday’s opponents, Regent House, may discover.
That said, the Newtownards school can be expected to provide a real challenge with Steven Colwell, Nathan Burns and Jonny Quigg likely to be to the fore.
Unbeaten Ballyclare HS will hope to add another name to their list of victims, namely that of Wallace HS whom they host at Rashee Road.
Both boast fine players — in Ballyclare’s case hooker Marc Logan, half-backs Jack Irvine and Jonny Holmes, and red-hot winger, Peter Ferguson, while Wallace can point to David Scott, Jordan Heatley, Patrick Hylands, Simon Gilmore and Daniel Henry.
Wallace’s Lisburn rivals, Friends, travel too — to Belfast HS.
Provided their forwards are able to provide ball the Friends’ backs will pose a real threat. Michael Cochrane, Paddy Pringle, Rory McIvor, Paul Anderson and Desi Eastwood are all potential match-winners.
Two former Irish international players will pit their wits against one another in Armagh where the Royal School welcome St Gerard’s College, Bray. The hosts are coached by Kenny Hooks, while St Gerard’s mentor is Tony Ward.
Coleraine AI travel to Co Down to play Banbridge Academy with the visitors hoping their experienced half-backs Paddy Farrell and Michael Poskitt can get them through this potentially tricky test.
Meanwhile in Downpatrick, Down HS, who ran RBAI close for the best part of an hour, entertain Lurgan College who broke their duck last weekend by beating Strabane GS.
Rainey host Omagh Academy whose Harry Gibson scored a hat-trick of tries against Friends — and ended up on the losing side.
Rainey, who beat a RBAI Select, will need another big performance if they are to win.
Cambridge House, who host Grosvenor GS, will be in good spirits having recently defeated Antrim GS and Carrickfergus GS.