Portora and Dungannon up for battle Royal
Portora Royal coach Lachlan Ferguson is expecting a right royal battle on Saturday when his side take on Royal School Dungannon in the Schools’ Cup third round.
Ferguson sees the tie as the closest to call in the entire draw and is just hoping that the Fermanagh boys are up for the challenge on the day.
“It’s been a difficult season for us, but it’s all about the cup now,” he said.
“The boys have been working very hard and they are all looking forward to the match.
“I think it’s a fantastic draw for the competition — two Royal schools battling it out and hopefully there will be a good crowd there to see it.
“It really will be a great game.
“Dungannon are probably favourites because they beat us earlier in the season, but our boys are confident that they can win this.
“It’s going to be very close and Dungannon are really only going to be seen as favourites just because they’ve already beaten us, but I wouldn’t read too much into that.
“This is as close a contest as you are going to see and hopefully we will do enough on the day to come out on top.”
Skippered by James Carlton, Portora have what Ferguson describes as a ‘large and quite robust’ forward pack and with the weather likely to be pretty fraught those two will certainly be needed.
“We try to play an expansive style of rugby so hopefully the conditions won’t hamper us too much,” said Ferguson.
“I’ve had a check and I believe it is going to be pretty cold, wet and quite windy so it’s going to be a good old fashioned cup tie.”
Dungannon coach Keith Patton is of the same thinking as he too feels the tie will be fiercely contested.
The County Tyrone school have a young side this year with eight players in the squad who have never taken part in the competition before.
However, Patton is not expecting inexperience to hamper their cup challenge.
“There are only four leavers in the team so it’s pretty new to a lot of the boys,” he said.
“We are a small school too, in terms of numbers, but I think the squad is good enough to, at the very least, be able to compete at this level.
“Success for us would be to be competitive and get that experience, but that’s not talking down our chances.
“There is certainly no negativity around and I am confident that on the day these boys can step up to the plate.
“It can, of course, go either way. You don’t want to be too brash, but you can’t count yourself out either.
“It’s their first time for a lot of them and it’s all about how they cope with that. I am confident that they will be able to do that.”
Dungannon are led by influential skipper Darrell Marshall, who Patton says reminds him of Ulster back-rower David Pollock — a former pupil at the school.
“He is such a strong leader and commands so much respect — not just within our own team but from referees and the opposition,” said Patton.
“Darrell is very important to us, as is Anas Smaali who has been great for us this year.”
Dungannon will also be hoping for a big performance from Ulster Schools representative Adam McCarter and Peter Nelson.