Ballymena Academy can go all the way
BOTH of these teams could go all the way.” That’s the opinion of Ballymena Academy coach John Andrews as his side prepare for a massive clash with Campbell College in Belfast in the Northern Banks Schools’ cup fourth round.
Andrews admits it wasn’t the best draw that his team - who reached the semi-finals last year, only to be beaten by a single point by eventual winners Methody - could have hoped for, but the fact that they avoided the team who ended their hopes a year ago has to be seen as a bonus.
It gives both teams the opportunity to stake their claim for a place in the quarter-finals, though Andrews isn’t looking too far ahead, with a very tough task expected in leafy Belmont over the weekend.
“It’s a big game and the players are all looking forward to it but we have been trying to play it down as best we can,” he admitted.
“Half of them played last year so they know what to expect but we don’t want them getting too far ahead of themselves.
“We have been given a tough draw. Avoiding Methody and Coleraine away is a bonus I suppose but we would obviously have preferred not to have had to go to Campbell either.
“I think, potentially either of the two teams could go all the way to the final so that shows just how tight it is going to be.
“If you take Methody out of the equation and look at ourselves, Campbell, RBAI and Coleraine, then any of those could go all the way.
“Methody are a fairly complete side but you never know, Coleraine could cause an upset.”
The Braidmen will be looking to their skipper Ross McQueen, who Andrews says has been ‘outstanding’ this season as well as Ulster Schools representatives Andy Warwick and Gareth Gracey.
All three were part of that cup run last year and Andrews will be hoping that their experience counts on the day.
“Both teams have little between them so it will be a case of who’s big players step up on the day,” added Andrews.
Over in east Belfast, Campbell College coach John McKinney will look to his key figures in Ulster under 18 players Cory Tipping and Max Porter.
Skipper James McKinney (pictured, above) who is an Ulster and Irish Schools star, will provide the main threat.