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Ballyclare can build on momentum, says Orchin-McKeever


Real class: Cameron Leighton is a threat for Coleraine

Real class: Cameron Leighton is a threat for Coleraine

Real class: Cameron Leighton is a threat for Coleraine

A bumper crowd is anticipated at Ballyclare tomorrow morning when the High School face the difficult task of taking on Friends' School for a place in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup quarter-finals.

Both sides topped their respective section in the pool stages, with the Lisburn side becoming the only ones to advance after the second of the round-robin fixtures.

Ballyclare coach Mike Orchin-McKeever feels that having already played three Cup ties gives his team and all the other qualifiers an edge when it comes to the knockout stage.

"The confidence gained from winning Group C will be advantageous as there were some tough games, especially against Cambridge House, who also qualified for the last-16 as one of the four best runners-up," he said. "Our recent form has been good as we have kept clean sheets against Coleraine and Rainey, and had a competitive success against St Gerard's over the Christmas period.

"I feel we have a strong and well-balanced squad and in my opinion Jack Gamble is the best captain I have worked with as a coach. He is a real leader with exceptional conduct on and off the field."

Ulster Under-19 back-rower Jack Gamble has been a consistent performer over the past three seasons on the firsts. He is ably assisted by vice-captain Adam Barron, who brings a real edge to the game, while Mark Jackson offers a spark in attack and is the top points scorer.

"We have had a strong season so far with strength in depth as 33 players have already been involved with the firsts," added the coach.

"All this would not be possible without the assistance of our dedicated coaching staff, which has been boosted by the presence of Ulster graduate teaching assistant Ryan McIlwaine.

"This role, partly funded by the school and Ulster Rugby, involves working with all elements of rugby from the Under-12s right up to senior level. Former pupil Adam Playfair assists with the forwards and has done a brilliant job."

Orchin-McKeever is pleased to have home advantage as he expects a close contest.

"We put Friends' out last season so most of their team which reached the Medallion Shield final three years ago are now in Upper Sixth," he said.

"They have a strong 10 and 12 combination of Reece Malone and Jack Harte, both have played for Ulster Under-19s.

"We just want our players to play their normal game, keep it simple and focus on the little elements of their game."

Sullivan Upper, who had a recent 24-7 success against Coleraine Grammar, will be expected to advance against the same opposition .

Both teams had to pre-qualify, with Sullivan finishing Section D with a maximum 15 points. They have had some encouraging results, including one against Methody, and have seven representative players, including captain and Irish Under-19 ace George Saunderson.

If Coleraine win enough ball, out-half Harry Caskey, full-back Cameron Leighton and centre Rory Telfer can show their talents. The Wallace twins, scrum-half Cameron and winger Callum, are also a danger.

Danske Bank Schools' Cup: Ballyclare HS v Friends; Coleraine GS v Sullivan Upper; RS Armagh v Campbell College, Bangor GS v Wallace High, Grosvenor GS v Enniskillen Royal, Cambridge House v Methodist College; Down High v Ballymena Academy.

Danske Bank Schools' Bowl quarter-finals: Belfast High v Dalriada, Banbridge Academy v Rainey Endowed, Limavady Grammar v Foyle College, Portadown College v Dromore High.

Danske Bank Schools' Trophy quarter-finals: Omagh Academy v Strabane Grammar, Regent House v RS Dungannon, Wellington College v Our Lady and St Patrick's Knock, Larne Grammar v Lurgan College.

Belfast Telegraph