The captain of this season’s Danske Bank Schools’ Cup will ensure himself a place in history when he climbs the steps of the Ravenhill grandstand to receive the trophy on Monday, March 18.
Already the Schools’ Cup has the distinction of being the second-oldest competition in world rugby. But adding further significance to the 2013 final is that this will be the last-ever Ulster Schools’ showpiece at Ravenhill before the grandstand is demolished as part of the stadium’s £14.7 million redevelopment.
The Schools’ Cup dates from 1876 and Ravenhill has hosted the final each year since opening in 1923. This will be its 90th final.
Larne Grammar beat Cambridge House in the preliminary round, thereby earning a place in yesterday’s draw for round two. They will be away to Regent House on Saturday, January 12.
With that being the same weekend as Ulster hosting Glasgow in the penultimate pool-stage Heineken Cup match, it promises to be a bumper couple of days of rugby for the province.
The draw — made by Stephen Black, the headmasters’ representative on the IRFU’s Ulster Branch, and Robert Garrett, head of the sponsor’s corporate banking — threw up some very interesting pairings.
The six matches include four sets of past-winners — RS Dungannon (1907), Foyle College 1900 and 1915), Portora Royal (1905, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1940, 1941 and 1942 when they shared the trophy having drawn that year’s final against RBAI) and Regent who drew with Methodist College in the 1996 final.
The winners will progress to the third round where they will be joined by Bangor Grammar, Belfast Royal Academy, Coleraine AI, Dalriada, Down High, Grosvenor Grammar, Limavady Grammar, Omagh Academy, Portadown College and Rainey Endowed, with third round matches scheduled for just two week later, on Saturday, January 26.
The big guns, the top eight seeds — from whose ranks, almost certainly, the winners will come — are exempt until round four and they are last year’s runners-up Ballyclare High, Ballymena Academy, Campbell College, the holders Methodist College, RBAI, RS Armagh, Sullivan Upper and Wallace High.
They will join the third round winners on Saturday, February 9.
Danske Bank (formerly Northern Bank) has been title sponsor of the Ulster Schools’ Cup since 2005.
Robert Garrett said: “The exciting developments ahead for Ravenhill will no doubt bring an added sense of occasion to what is always a thrilling finale to this prestigious tournament. For Danske Bank, as well as for the schools, coaches, teams, their families and supporters, the excitement has already begun and the draw is always eagerly anticipated by players and followers alike.
“Danske Bank is delighted to play its part in supporting rugby talent to thrive and our employees always look forward to supporting local schools in their Schools’ Cup journey each year.”
Danske Bank Schools’ Cup round two: Royal School Dungannon v Wellington College; Belfast High School v Banbridge Academy; Foyle College v Portora Royal School; Carrickfergus Grammar School v Lurgan College; Antrim Grammar School v Friends’ School, Lisburn; Regent House School v Larne Grammar School.