With Bangor GS and Sullivan Upper safely through to Round Four of the 2011 Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup, six others are aiming to join them in tomorrow’s last 16 draw.
In no order other than alphabetical, the pairings — postponed last weekend because of frost — are Down HS v Foyle and Londonderry College, RS Dungannon v Coleraine AI, Grosvenor GS v Banbridge Academy, Larne GS v Belfast HS, Limavady GS v Regent House and Portadown College v Dalriada.
The RSD v CAI game at Northland Row looks promising (11.00am).
The hosts’ Peter Nelson scored 30 of his side’s 35 points against Antrim GS in the previous round and clearly he is a vital player.
But Derek Martin and Andrew Clingan are key members of the RSD pack and if Gary Wong (arm injury) is fit he will take his place alongside Nelson, Frankie Yeun and Jacob McCammon in a good back line.
Coleraine’s record at this particular venue is unimpressive, though in Alan Clarke, Paddy Farrell, Stuart McCaffrey and Michael Poskitt they have backs who could do something about changing that.
Down HS have registered some impressive wins this season, not least those against Wallace HS and Bangor GS.
So Foyle and Londonderry College are expecting a tough time in Downpatrick, albeit that the hosts’ Stuart Orr looks like missing out again. On the days when Orr has been absent, forwards John Donnan, Matthew McKeown and Tommy McConnell have stepped up to provide possession for backs Aaron Cairns and Justin Rea.
Foyle’s recent derby win over Limavady GS will have boosted them and with Neil Burns, Ian Vance and Tom Burns having representative experience and Graeme McCarter, Conor Cummings and Chris Campbell all capable of doing major damage, Down dare not take anything for granted. Kick-off is at 11.30am.
The other north west representatives, Limavady GS, have been through the mill of late in terms of results and injuries.
Tomorrow (11.30am) they host Regent House knowing that if they are to remain in the Cup they need to have Nathan Barr, Conor Crampsie, Shay McIntosh and Ryan McCool on board.
Despite a mixed season, Regent are favourites after making Ballymena Academy work hard for a narrow victory last time out. Nathan Burns, Steven Colwell, Stephen Deering, Willie Mayne and Matthew Ramsey shone that day and will aim to repeat that form against Limavady whose scalp they took earlier in the season.
Like Limavady, Portadown College — despite having home advantage, in their case against Dalriada — are underdogs.
The Andrew Symington-coached College boys bounced back well after going 5-0 down to Wellington in Round Two, with Thomas Halliday bagging a hat-trick of tries.
But even with David and Michael Busby, Neal Irwin and Adam McMaster included, they know they have to play to their maximum against their guests from Ballymoney.
Josh McCullough and Matthew McCracken have key parts to play up front for if Dalriada’s forwards win quality ball their backs — Ben Henderson, Jonny Laughlin, Jonny McLaughlin and Ewan Strang et al — will take some stopping.
The guests’ David Campbell, Andrew Skelton and Roger Bonnar can be relied upon to contest every ball.
Portadown’s near neighbours, Banbridge Academy, travel to Belfast to face Grosvenor GS, whose pack saw them through Round Two against Cambridge House. Matthew Cahoon, two-try hero Mark Foster, Matthew Harland and Stephen Smyth, excelled in both scrum and line-out, while the Grosvenor back row — Isaac Thompson, Ryan McKnight and Conor Sinclair — shone at the breakdown. Chrissy Craig, Michael Runciman and Hugo Harbinson are the Banbridge backs who must be watched, albeit that Grosvenor are confident of victory.
The sixth tie is Larne GS v Belfast HS.
Larne’s Philip Andrews, Billy Brown, Calum Paton, Houston Saunderson and Ross Williamson played big parts in their Round Two away day win over Portora.
But BHS showed they can battle, too — just ask Carrickfergus GS whom they beat in Round Two.
Both feel they can win, but home advantage may just give Larne the edge.
Tomorrow morning’s six-game Northern Bank Schools’ Cup Round Three programme is:
Larne GS v Belfast HS, Grosvenor GS v Banbridge Academy (both 10.30)
RS Dungannon v Coleraine AI, Portadown College v Dalriada (both 11)
Limavady GS v Regent House, Down HS v Foyle and Londonderry College (both 11.30)