Barney McGonigle: Big guns keen to show off stars
While pride of place quite rightly goes to this weekend’s Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup second round, nine friendlies are scheduled for tomorrow morning with the big guns all in action.
Methodist College, the holders, are one of those waiting their turn in the Schools’ Cup and, having seen last weekend’s scheduled fixture with Blackrock College postponed, they will be hoping there are no problems tomorrow for the visit of Terenure College.
Both schools boast representative players a-plenty and Methody will look to the likes of Blane McIlroy, Paddy Jackson, Rory Harrison, Conor Carey and Paddy McKee to thwart their Leinster rivals.
But with Eoin Joyce, Niall Casey and Adam Clarkin — all Leinster Schools’ players — Terenure will be formidable opponents.
Not having played since before Christmas, when they beat Banbridge Academy away from home, the Royal School Dungannon will be glad to return to action, with the reverse fixture tomorrow.
Keith Patton-coached RSD welcome back Peter Nelson, fresh from his try-scoring exploits for Irish Schools. And with boys like Gary Wong, Andrew Clingan, Andrew Creaney and Glen Smyton available to ’Gannon, the guests face a hard morning.
Following injuries, Banbridge would be delighted to have Shandon Scott, Chris Craig and James Gibson on board. They must pass fitness tests, however, and should they fail them it will fall to Michael Ross, Michael Runciman and Nathan McDonald to lead from the front.
Dungannon’s ‘Royal’ neighbours and rivals, unbeaten Armagh, head north west to face Coleraine AI, another side who have not played for a long time.
The hosts have quality players in Irish Schools’ Under 18s Ritchie McMaster, plus Paddy Farrell and Dean Rankin and with it being their instinct to attack, that is unlikely to change in deference to RSD. But if the flair players are to shine, it will be up to Michael Shiels to ensure a supply of quality ball from his pack.
Armagh’s line-up includes fine players like Simon Carlisle, Jonathan Dixon, Andrew Smyth, Harry Doyle and Andrew Magowan.
Stuart Hooks has been among their leading scorers this season and with the Schools’ Cup looming, Armagh are in fine form at just the right moment.
Coach Kenny Hooks is as good and shrewd as they come and he will see this as a significant game at a key stage of the season.
Belfast’s two ‘Royal’ seats of learning — BRA and RBAI — are in action, too.
Stuart Olding, Marc Glover, Ian Henderson and David Cartmill are available to BRA for their game against Ballyclare High and are capable of creating tries from anywhere.
Ballyclare’s problem has been inconsistency, which is frustrating in that they have some excellent boys, including Luc Baillie, Kirk Johnston, Jonny Holmes and David Clarke. Now is the time for them to show.
With RBAI having won their past four matches, they are looking forward to welcoming Munster giants Presentation Brother’s College, Cork to Osbourne Park.
Presentation are tipped for a good run in the Munster Schools’ Cup and with RBAI fancying their chances in the Ulster equivalent, this could be a corker (whoops!)
Niall Scannell, Brian Carroll and David O’ Mahoney have all been capped by Munster and Irish Schools, so the visitors will be strong. But the hosts will point to Michael McAuley, Kevin McLean, Alistair Andress, Zach Welshman and Michael Kilpatrick as players capable of delivering for them.
Campbell College hope to be at full strength for the visit of Connacht Schools’ League Champions Sligo GS, who include Aaron Spring, Daniel Qualter, Scott Oates, John Gill and Gary McConnell, all Connacht representatives.
Spring and Qualter also have Irish Schools’ honours.
Campbell will counter with representative players of their own in captain, Cory Tipping and scrum-half John Creighton, their Irish Schools’ squad member. And Chris Best and Rory Scholes are players capable of making much of any service they get.
The two Lisburn schools, Friends and Wallace, are in action against Dalriada and St Mary’s College, Dublin at home and away respectively.
If Friends manage to field David McGuigan, Ross McCaughey, Michael Cochrane, Rory McIvor and Paddy Pringle, Dalriada will have their work cut out.
But Jonny McLaughlin, the visitors’ Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ winger, and Lee Ballentine, Ewan Strang, Ben Henderson and Andrew Skelton will pose a significant threat to the Friends’ defence.
Wallace go to St Mary’s College for what has become annual fixture.
The Dubliners boast Liam Curran, the Leinster Schools’ Under 18s captain, and Leinster Schools’ Under 19s pair Eoin Moriarity and Maurice Walsh.
Captain Kyle McCall, Rory Stewart and Chris Spence are vital members of the Wallace team and if they can deny the St Mary’s team decent possession they could return victorious.
Grosvenor GS host Limavady GS, who have representative players Robin Craig and Shay McIntosh on board.
Peter Wilson and Nathan Barr are impressive half-backs and Conor Crampsie is an all-action forward worth noting for the future while Tyler Mitchell and Cathal Crouch are two more who have featured prominently in Limavady’s success this season.
While Grosvenor have been unable to play for some weeks, coach Kyle McCallan has been encouraged to see Matthew Little’s return to fitness. And in Chris Quinn, Jonny Taylor and Mark Foster he knows he has boys on whom he can rely.
When Regent House last played, it was on their pre-Christmas tour of Gibraltar where they registered two good wins. Tomorrow they travel to play Ballymena Academy in the knowledge that Alistair Lockhart, Nathan Burns, Thomas Slane, Nicholas Mawhinney, Paul Mawhinney and Dylan Rodgers will have to shine if they are to avenge a first-term defeat by their hosts.
Ballymena are without lock, Oliver Millar, injured during the recent French tour. That’s a real blow.
On the plus side, full-back Charlie Simpson returns, after missing the trip to France due to involvement with the Irish Schools’ Under-18s for whom he scored two tries against their Italian counterparts.