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Armagh and Friends eye maiden Medallion Shield triumph

By Ronnie Ingram

There will be a new name engraved on the Danske Bank Schools' Medallion Shield as either Armagh Royal or Friends' School will win the trophy for the first time in this afternoon's final at Kingspan Stadium (2.30pm).

Remarkably, Armagh - who have won the Schools' Cup on nine occasions - have only managed one success at Medallion level and that was in the 2007 Plate final when they defeated Ballymena Academy.

They were also defeated at the same stage by Campbell College in 2004, whereas Friends' reached the Bowl final in 2006 but lost 13-8 to Craigavon.

The final, which was postponed from March 7 due to the condition of the Kingspan pitch combined with an impending poor weather forecast, is expected to be a closely-fought contest between two teams that show a positive approach to the game.

The teams met back in October when the Lisburn side came out on top 21-10 but that will have no bearing on the decider as both have improved immensely since then.

Ivor Monaghan, Head of Sport at Friends', is excited by the prospect of the school playing at Kingspan for the first time in decades.

"Armagh are a well-balanced side and if both teams perform to their ability then it should be a terrific final," he said.

"We have come a long way since the start of the competition and have managed to field a full-strength side in all three ties after suffering so many injuries in November.

"Following a three-day bonding and training course at Jordanstown in January, we have had great support from our Firsts, who are giving their support after their own disappointment when they had to withdraw from the Schools' Cup."

Armagh coach Simon Cardwell feels the extra couple of weeks following the postponement have been most helpful.

He said: "This is a big day for the team and the school. We will be at full strength and a win would cap an excellent season."

On their way to the final, Armagh eliminated Cambridge House 20-5, Wallace High 7-5 and Bangor Grammar 36-0, after Bangor had eliminated the holders RBAI 14-12. Friends' defeated BRA 19-3, MCB 12-8 and Portadown College 39-10.

RS Armagh: James McBride, Charlie Royston, Sam Rainey, Kyle George, Philip Irvine, Jude Roberts, Josh King, Ryan Finley, Charlie Worth, Romain Morrow, Chris Whiteside, Ross Taylor, Peter Taylor (c), Josh McClure, Ethan McAtarnsney, Josh Cunningham, Adam Willis, Kelton Welch, Bryan Nguyen, Jayson Denley, James Allen, Sam Harrison, Joseph Partridge.

Friends' School: Ross Shields, Marcus Pringle, Jack Harte, Ben Greenhill, Ethan Terris, Michael Glass, San Le Seelleur, Max Gillespie, David Scott, Reece Malone, Sam Scorer, Jack Harte, Stuart Patterson, Fergus McEwan, Joe Anderson, William Campbell, Ben Rowlatt McCormick, Eoin McCarry, Patrick McElhinney, Ryan McGuckin, Ben Topping, Kyle Gormley, Mark Gilmour.

Referee: J Wilson.

Belfast Telegraph

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