Braidmen out to bring the House down
Away from the Schools’ Cup there are a number of attractive fixtures in which some of the big names will be sharpening their claws ahead of joining the trail leading to Ravenhill.
Cup holders Ballymena Academy travel to play Regent House who struggled against Omagh Academy last time out.
Regent cannot afford a similar performance against Ballymena who have run into form at just the right time.
Regent will look to Nathan Burns, Willie Mayne, Matthew Ramsey and Steven Colwell for inspiration. But Ballymena, with Caleb Morrison, Timothy Patton, Nicholas Sterling, George Hargy, Sam McNabney and captain John Andrew to the fore, are favourites.
Belfast Royal Academy, last season’s Cup runners-up, host Dublin’s Castleknock College whose line-up includes Irish Schools’ flanker, Jack O’ Neill.
Ryan Clarke, Robbie Jamison, Eoin Devlin and Matthew Robinson are four of BRA’s star turns.
While Castleknock head north, Methodist College travel south to face Terenure College in Dublin.
The Belfast boys have chalked up a series of wins against opponents from the other provinces and James Harrison, Oliver McCollum, Ryan Annett, Rory Winters, Matthew McFaul and co. will be keen to keep that run going.
Meanwhile, RS Armagh’s Neil Faloon is expected to be fit to face Coleraine AI at College Hill.
His work in tandem with Stuart Hooks in Armagh’s back row has helped the Royal become one of the best school sides in Ulster.
Coleraine — who lost to St Mary’s College last time out — will also need to counter the threat posed by Harry Boyd, Robbie Magowan and Timothy McNeice.
Paddy Farrell, Ali Ashgar, and Stuart Caffrey will play a big part in their bid to cause an upset.
Inconsistent Sullivan Upper welcome RBAI, with the hosts’ Harry Eves, Ross Adair, Oliver Loughead and captain Michael Scott fully conscious of their team’s need to step up for this.
Paddy Bell has his RBAI boys going well, with Zach Welsman, Kevin McLean, Matthew McGuigan and Nathan Dugan delivering on a regular basis.
Foyle and Londonderry College and Limavady GS meet in a north-west derby in the Maiden City.
Foyle won the early-season clash and boys like Ian Vance, Chris Campbell, Neil Burns and Connor Cummings will aim to make it a double.
Ryan McCool, Shay McIntosh, Nathan Barr and Conor Crampsie are available for the guests so it promises to be hard fought.
Friends, who last played on November 27, are scheduled to host Dalriada.
If Jonny MacCorkell, Joe Murphy, Aaron Bissett and David Seeds can help Friends achieve parity up front, where David Campbell, Andrew Skelton and Roger Bonnar are key, this could be quite a contest.
Banbridge Academy entertain Ballyclare High School in what will be a test of the hosts’ mettle.
Academy’s Tom Jess, Chrissy Craig, Hugo Harbinson and Michael Runciman will see this a chance to impress against top opponents for whom Jonny Holmes, Jonny Darling, Andrew Butler, Kris McIntyre and Kirk Johnston have excelled this season.