The Northern Bank Schools' Cup juggernaut is gathering pace, with eight runners ready to progress into round four tomorrow.
That means, of course, eight others will be bowing out. Such is the knife edge of knock-out sport.
Banbridge Academy, Bangor Grammar School, Belfast High School, Coleraine Academical Institution, Dalriada School, Down High School, Foyle and Londonderry College, Friends’ School Lisburn, Grosvenor Grammar School, Larne Grammar School, Limavady Grammar, Regent House, Portadown College, Rainey Endowed, Royal School Dungannon and Sullivan Upper School are tomorrow’s starters.
Bangor, who first lifted the trophy in 1978 and then did so again three times in four seasons in the 1980s, host much-improved Friends.
Having long lived in the shadow of rivals, Wallace, Friends’ are anxious to make their mark on this competition.
With home advantage, however, Bangor will aim to ensure that any improvement in Friends’ Northern Bank Schools’ Cup pedigree is not at their expense.
Grosvenor’s name appears on the past winners’ list, too, their win having come back in 1983. And although they are unlikely to stage any repeat this year, they will at least hope to go through tomorrow.
However, Grosvenor’s visitors, Banbridge Academy, have plenty of pace in their backline to stop that from happening.
Twice-triumphant Rainey — 1967 and 1982 — are at home to Sullivan, who have never managed to win the Schools’ Cup and, even in their most optimistic moments, could not envisage themselves breaking with that tradition this year.
Rainey booked their place at the expense of west-of-the-Bann rivals Omagh Academy, who they brushed aside in round two. And, having enjoyed that experience, they they will hope to repeat the feat tomorrow.
Sullivan, in turn, will aim to ensure that their long haul was not made in vain.
Dalriada also face a lengthy trip to face Portadown College. The Ballymoney boys will fancy themselves, but, if the hosts perform to the best of their ability, it could go either way.
It’s quite a trek from Newtownards to Roeside, too, but it is one Regent House must make in order to complete the difficult fixture against Limavady GS.
Even in their best days neither of those protagonists have ever succeeded in their respective pursuits of the Cup success, nor will they in 2011.
But, given a home tie, the winners of tomorrow morning’s match might just provide a tricky enough hurdle for one or two of the bigger guns joining the fray in round four.
Theoretically, Larne and Belfast HS ought to know one another well enough to be cancel each other out, but this is the Cup so that won’t happen.
Will to win — or not to lose — this East Antrim derby could be the biggest ingredient and decide this fixture.