Methody look to end their semi-final jinx against holders
Methodist College will be attempting to shake off the bridesmaids' tag this afternoon when they tackle holders Wallace High in the McCullough Cup semi-finals at Lisnagarvey.
The winners will face either Banbridge Academy or Friends' in the final, which is scheduled for the same venue on December 12.
Methody have fallen at the penultimate hurdle in each of their last five appearances in the semi-finals of the two schoolboys' hockey knock-out tournaments, with the Burney Cup taking place in the New Year.
They go into the Wallace game as underdogs but the Lisburn school have lost two of their most influential players in Lisnagarvey regulars Troy Chambers and Jonny Lynch, who have left school, so that could create a more even playing field.
Methody coach Thomas Welshman said: "The boys have worked really hard and improved steadily over the past couple of months and we go into the Wallace game on the back of a narrow defeat to eventual winners Dublin High at the Irish Schools' Championship.
"Having said that, we will start as underdogs because Wallace are a really good side and have so many playing senior hockey for Garvey and South Antrim."
Wallace coach Gareth Kidd won't be underestimating the threat posed by Methody, after his team beat Sullivan in both schools' finals last year on penalties.
Kidd said: "Our young squad is really looking forward to taking on Methody and as holders we are determined to keep our hands on the trophy but know that they will be well organised, hard to beat and a tough nut to crack on the day.
"We have lost six players from the squad which won the Cup so dramatically last year but other players have really stepped up in their absence with Peter Milligan, Max Taylor and Ben Clarke playing for South Antrim 1st XI in the Ulster Premier League and having played in the Kirk Cup semi-final last Sunday against Lisnagarvey."
Banbridge will start as marginal favourites in the second semi-final against Friends', who will be aiming to tear up the script and perhaps set up an all-Lisburn decider against Wallace should they both ensure progress.
However, Academy are full of confidence going into the contest after defeating their nemesis of recent years, Sullivan, 4-2 in their final McCullough Cup group game.
Edward Rowe, who plays for Banbridge in the Irish Hockey League, dominated that match with a hat-trick of penalty corner strikes and is joined in the line-up by his brothers, Charlie and Louis.
Friends' coach Craig Cunningham said: "We have nine final year pupils in the squad this year so we aren't short on experience but we know Banbridge will pose a stern test.
"They are always well organised and have a good penalty corner routine, while they put us out of the Burney Cup last season so we know it's going to be a difficult game."
McCullough Cup semi-finals (Lisnagarvey): Methodist College v Wallace High School (1pm); Banbridge Academy v Friends' School (3pm).