Dromore want to be High achievers in Schools' Cup debut
Regardless of the outcome, history will be made tomorrow when Dromore High School play their first ever Danske Bank Schools' Cup game when the second round of the competition kicks off around the province.
And just to add to an already highly anticipated occasion, Dromore's entry to the big time will see them travelling the relatively short distance to take on local rivals Banbridge Academy (kick-off 10.30am) who are the current holders of the Schools' Trophy.
The decision to give Dromore their shot in the senior competition was made following the growth of the game at the school - with the setting up of a sixth form several years ago also being a vital ingredient in moving towards them now playing at Under-18 level - which has been most clearly demonstrated through their decade-long dominance of the Under-16 High Schools' Trophy.
The school's head coach Josh Pentland, who has a Schools' Cup winners' medal from his time at RBAI, said: "It's going to be a great game and occasion for the school and the town of Dromore itself.
"People have been talking about it for quite a while now and there's a real buzz around the place.
"It will be a great day and also a special way to start it off for us.
"This is a long-term thing for us but, right now, we're here and we're going to give it a real go."
A lot of hard work has gone towards getting the school to this point and Pentland - who is now in his second year with Dromore and is assisted by forwards coach Gareth Bronte - is only too ready to pay tribute to his predecessor Jacques Benade, who is currently on a sabbatical in Dubai, and the school's principal Ian McConaghy for all their efforts in pushing the school on.
Dromore only played their first full game at Under-18 level back in September when they hosted - they play at the town's rugby club - what was essentially an Inst seconds team and marked the special occasion by winning 8-7.
Since then a number of injuries have struck, which have bitten hard with a small squad, and though the results haven't been good, the squad have remained encouragingly competitive.
Another reason for a certain amount of optimism is that most of those injured players are expected to be back in time for tomorrow's clash with Banbridge.
Second row Richard Dickson is one such player and he has been sidelined since October with a hand injury. His return to fitness will be a considerable boost for the Schools' Cup debutants, though they have been hit by hooker Oliver Beatty not making it due to injury.
Other key players in the squad include team captain Ben Martin, who plays full-back and is also Head Boy and skipper of the school's football team, and he has a big input into the way the side performs.
Ben Heath is also a talented No.8 who will be looking to make an impact.
There is, of course, the appreciation that turning their local rivals over on Bann's home patch, in what will be the first game they have played against each other at this level, is rather unlikely.
Even so, Dromore are certainly going to go full-on to create a big upset from their first exposure to the competition.
"We know they're well-seasoned in the Schools' Cup, that they have home advantage and they've a lot more senior players than we have," stated Pentland, who plays his club rugby at Malone.
"We'll give it a go and if it goes our way on the day it would be absolutely brilliant, but we're not even contemplating that.
"We're going to enjoy the occasion and that's what it's about for us.
"Our Upper Sixth boys would never have thought they'd have been playing at this level, so for us we're glad of the opportunity.
"There's no real pressure (on us) and we're going to go out and enjoy it, play our own game and see what happens."
This venture into unknown territory - the school has a strong junior representation and has sides at Under-12, Under-13, Under-14 and Medallion levels - is just a first step of a long-term plan to continue developing the game within the school and, indeed, the town itself.
"It's all about the boys and the school," added Pentland.
"It will drive the junior boys, who are going to the game, to want to play in it. It's all about our plan and our ambition to do this.
"The boys have bought into it and the school has bought into it. We'll see how it goes."
Whatever happens tomorrow morning, Dromore are ready to embrace this historic moment.
Belfast High School v Limavady Grammar School
Belfast High School
Coaches: M Rainey, D Scott, M Jess
Captain: Simon White
Player to Watch: Scott McDowell has a habit of scoring tries, sometimes more than one in the same game.
Squad: B Quigg, Z McConkey, J Love, T Cuthbertson, S McBride, R Gibson, K Mullett, E McConkey, C McKimm, N Brennan, J Doyle, O McLean, D Heron, P McAuley, L Rogers, TJ McFarland, S White, P McClenaghan, T Madiala, S McDowell, B McMinn, A Gaston, J Ferguson, D Walker, E atson, A Crilly, A Regan, M Jenkins.
Limavady Grammar School
Coaches: Chris Nash, Brian Hughes
Captain: Rohan Mulligan
Player to Watch: James Howe is an accurate kicker and knows how to control play.
Squad: Jon McMichael, Arshdeep Sandau, Joel Boucher, Stephen Irons, Gurpatap Sandhu, Robbie Hunter, Ben Reilly, David Brown, Rohan Mulligan, Jamie Young, Sam McFarland, Gary McKee, Jim McCartney, Bob Welsby, James Howe, Ryan King-Magee, Peter Hodgkiss, Brendan McArthur, Lewis McKee, Chris McKee, Jacob McCay, Alistair McKee.
Foyle College v Regent House
Coaches: David Barnett, Ian Orr
Captain: Thomas Cole
Player to Watch: No.8 Joel Smyth is a ball carrier who excelled in the Schools’ Cup last year as a fifth former at wing forward.
Squad: Patrick Hughes, Dara Gill, Jack Kelly, Matthew Magee, Jacob Lenord, Ultan Clancy, Craig Parkhill, Joel Smyth, Killene Thornton, Keelan Coyle, Reece Hughes, Thomas Cole, Matthew Alford, Jake Quinnell, Ben Galbraith, Ben Polin, Eoghan Cusack, Adam Pollock, William Watson, Lewis Callen, Josh Cole, Andy Miller, Danny Jones.
Coaches: Nick Gamble, Mervyn Tweed, M Busby
Captain: Kyle van Giesen
Player to Watch: Kyle van Giesen has already had two years playing at this level so leads with his experience.
Squad: Kyle van Giesen, Ethan Bradley, Curtis Jones, Keir Edgar, Robert Hull, Cameron Quinn, Ewan McCracken, Andy McCracken, Lewis English, Josh McFarland, Matthew Foster, Conor McCaw, Kristian Wallis McKimm, Alex Hendrickse, Robbie Johnston, Jack Smith, Aaron Migan, Brandon Fraser, Iain Jones, Ethan McFerran, Stuart Martin, Colm McCreedy, Matty McFarland.
Friends’ School v Antrim Grammar School
Coaches: Stephen Robinson, Norman Gamble, Peter Weir, Hugh McCaughey
Captain: Adam Milligan
Players to Watch: Ben McCaughey and Bradley Mulholland are the leading try scorers.
Squad: Ross Stewart, Henry Tolerton, Adam McElwee, Zac Campbell, Oliver Saunders, Owen Beckett, Connor Hall, Alex Hall, Ross Gillespie, Chris Nesbitt, Daniel Patterson, Adam Milligan, Sam Greer, Adam Schofield, David Stewart, George Pringles, Curtis Dundas, Bradley Mulholland, David Newell, Ben McCaughey, Alex O’Brien, Matthew Chapman, Adam McFall.
Antrim Grammar School
Coaches: Robin McKenna, Mark Herman, Michael Duncan
Captain: Dean McCrory
Player to Watch: JJ McKee has a formidable presence in the pack and leads by example.
Squad: Jack Francis, Daniel Allen, Joe Griffith, Callum Neeson, David Porter, Timmy Myles, JJ McKee, Dean McCrory, Dylan Woods, Dylan McGreevy, Conor Robb, Matthew Robb, Thomas Allen, Callum Hull, Ben McKnight, Dale Morrow, Callum McComb, Ryan Taylor, Matthew Wright, Nathan Donaldson, Niall Lawrence, Ryan Myles.
Banbridge Academy v Dromore High School
Coaches: Brian Leslie, Roy Stevenson, Andrew Craig
Captain: Toby Baxter
Player to Watch: Scrum-half Chris Patterson is their leading try scorer and is dangerous close to the opposing line.
Squad: John Wilson, Robbie Mathers, Jordan Poots, Stuart Totten, Timothy Beattie, Scott Buchanan, Alex Mitchell, Robert Ashfield, Mark Ashfield, Jonathan McIntosh, Toby Baxter, Peter Sleith, Angus Corbett, James Moore, Robbie Little, Jake Beattie, Andrew Denver, Troy Pinion, Matthew Robinson, Srinnas Suresh, Scott Thompson, Jack Dolaghan, Tom Flanagan, Ross Cartmill, Christopher Patterson.
Dromore High School
Coaches: Josh Pentland and Gareth Bronte
Captain: Ben Martin
Player to Watch: If Banbridge infringe, Ben Martin will kick the points for the team making their bow in the blue riband event of schools’ rugby.
Squad: Aaron Lyttle, Oliver Beatty, Peter O’Connor, Richard Dickson, James Moore, Robert Shaw, Matthew Pepper, Ben Heath, Rhys Dale, Reuben Cobb, Dylan Branker, Ben Davis, Aaron Atkinson, Caleb Harper, Ben Martin, James Boyd, Connor Heasley, Jake Boyd, James Harte, Ben Johnston, James Burke, Jared Rush, James Priestley.
Portadown College v Wellington College
Coaches: Paul Heasley, Andrew Symington
Captain: Stewart Hodgen
Player to Watch: Brett Flack has the ability to find gaps in the opposing defence.
Squad: Aaron McMaster, Ross Gilmore, Conor Webster, Alastair Gilpin, Andrew Taylor, Scott McDowell, Stewart Hodgen, Drew Flack, Matthew Neill, Daniel Smith, Dylan Nelson, Christopher Thornberry, Peter McKeeman, Ryan Daly, Brett Flack, Henry Connolly, Craig Chambers.
Coaches: Peter Chambers, Latimer Adair, Gareth Montgomery
Captain: Aaron Nelson
Player to Watch: Marcus Smyth has the speed and ability to score tries for the Belfast outfit.
Squad: James Blanchflower, Jacob Thomas, James Milligan, Niall McGrath, Matthew Long, Owen Martin, Calum Stewart, Aaron Nelson, Adam McCloskey, Luke Harris, Jack Diver, Eoghan White, Thomas Lorimer, Lewis Moore, Marcus Smyth.
Larne Grammar School v Dalriada School
Larne Grammar School
Coaches: Graham Cloke, Luke Gourley, Harry McKay
Captain: Barry McFall
Player to Watch: Given half a chance, vice-captain Adam Maguire will score tries.
Squad: Jordan McElhinney, Micah Stevenson, Robbie Simpson, Jason Ward, Jacob Swann, Samuel Holst, Ronnie Ferguson, Jamie Ross, Aaron Gallagher, Adam Maguire, Scott Kane, Jacob Holst, Lee McLee, Morgan Wharry, Jack McNally, Johnny Farquhar, Barry McFall, David Moore, Stewart Hodgen, Sam Wood, Liam Slaughter, Kyle McConnell, John Andrews, Ben Hamilton, Stephen Topping.
Coaches: Benjy van der Byl, Rab Gregg
Captain: Denis Pasternak.
Player to Watch: Jack Dowie ran in two excellent tries in the 38-0 win over Cambridge House
Squad: Adam Wright, Griffin Phillipson, Scott Gamble, Adam Stewart, Andrew Hutchinson, Jack Dowie, Curtis Pollock, Jacob Butcher, James Allen, Patrick Carson, Matthew Carton, Denis Pasternak, Ross Fallows, Peter Wright, Jack Elliott, Matthew Kennedy, Jacob Fleck, Colin Henry, Henry Ross, Michael McAleese, Luke Pollock, Jack McMullan, Nathan Phillipson, William Allen, Patrick Elliott, Matthew Mulligan, Harry McMeekin.
Lurgan College v Strabane Academy
Coach: Kyle McCallan
Captain: Victor McKenzie
Player to Watch: Reuben McCreery is strong and determined and has many tries to his credit from the back of the scrum.
Squad: Sam Lawther, Lewis Lawson, Michael Boulos, Ryan Emerson, Ben Hunter, James McAllister, Jon Woods, Ben McAllister, Matthew McConaghy, Victor McKenzie, Rory Burns, Reuben McCreery, James Harrison, Scott Wilson, Darren Campbell, Josh Abraham, Jack Maxwell, Jack Dunn, Richard Hull, Mark McElhinney, Peter Jackson, Neil Allen, Adam Harrison, Harry Woods.
Coaches: Niall McDonnell, James Doherty, Steve Sargent, Adam Bratton, Kieran O’Donnell
Captain: Oran O’Neill
Player to Watch: Lurgan would be foolish to concede penalties as Ralph Mealiff is an accurate place kicker.
Squad: Kyle Hunter, Ryan McKittrick, Jack Sayers, Gareth Duncan, Alex Hume, Oran O’Neill, Adam McElwee, Jordan Mealiff, Kristin Warke, Peter Kirk, Ralph Mealiff, Jamie Browne, Arun Mehan, Gareth Glendinning, Jonathan Gamble, David Shaw, Gavin Doherty, Harry McCrossan, Karl McIntyre, Ryan Millar.