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BRA ready to meet Methody's mighty Schools' Cup challenge

By Michael Sadlier

Though neither side exactly come into today's second Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup semi-final off the back of smooth campaigns, all that will count for little when Methodist College and Belfast Royal Academy do battle at the Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm).

While BRA missed out on contesting a quarter-final due to the well-documented withdrawal of Friends' School Lisburn, Methody have notably struggled in even reaching the last four after narrow triumphs at Down High School and Royal School Armagh.

Methody easily possess the greater pedigree in the competition, but more notable than the history is that their last final appearance was in 2014 which doesn't sit well.

As for BRA, they last made it this far in 2010 when a side which contained Iain Henderson and Stuart Olding reached the final only to lose to Ballymena Academy and fail to add to the north Belfast school's sole title success of 1997.

So, 20 years on is maybe not a bad time for BRA to dream big, though head coach David Creighton simply sees overcoming Nicky Wells' Methody side as the only focus.

Not having had a competitive game since early February's fourth round, when they defeated Rainey Endowed 44-7, is hardly the best preparation but Creighton has no issue with that.

"We certainly feel that it's not a disadvantage and we'd see ourselves as just being ready," he stated.

Though the sides met earlier in the season, when Methody ran out easy enough winners, Creighton feels that his squad have made a lot of progress.

And they have some notable experience and leadership in the squad with forwards Matthew Borne, Bradley Luney and Cormac McCracken while former Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin's input here, in a consultancy role, has also been beneficial.

And in the backline, Jack Burton, Samuel Osborne and Lewis Davidson are also experienced operators as is skipper and scrum-half Conor McAuley.

"This is where we as a school want to be, though we know we are going to have to be at our very best to move on to the final," Creighton added.

Methody have come from behind to win both their cup games but there is still no doubting their ability and they are favourites to progress.

Centre Paul Kerr is their main danger man but there are also big performers up front and skipper Mattie Loane is a vital cog in a strong back-row containing Cameron Kelly and Thomas Gallagher with the latter scoring a hat-trick of tries in the comeback at Armagh.

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