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Coleraine out to end 16-year wait for final

By Jonathan Bradley

Coleraine Academical Inst coach Richard Beggs has called on his side to end their lengthy wait for a Schools' Cup final appearance when they meet Sullivan at Upper Malone this afternoon (2.30pm).

The north-west school are the fourth most successful team in the history of the competition but have not reached the final since a 1998 defeat to RBAI.

Ahead of today's contest, Beggs said: "For a school of our size, we have not reached the final for a very, very long time.

"We have great pedigree in this competition but we haven't had success for too long."

Coleraine AI are the only side to make this year's semi-finals without being seeded among the top eight schools but Beggs stresses that his squad should not be underestimated.

"In a way not being seeded takes the pressure off us a little bit but we have our own expectations within the school," added Beggs.

"We weren't one of those seeded teams but we've beaten six of the eight who were so there isn't anything for us to fear.

"There's a real buzz about rugby in the school at the minute with our Medallion side doing well in the Shield and our second XV going well in the Plate so it would mean a lot if we could get a result against Sullivan."

Far from underestimating the task at hand however, and despite a victory against the same opposition earlier in the season, he added: "That's the Sullivan dream team, though that's taken them all the way through since junior school.

"They're a super side and we're definitely aware about of size of a task that faces us."

Citing that previous result, Sullivan team manager Stephen Finlay said: "They must be favourites because they beat us only six or seven weeks ago.

"We went up there in January and were beaten 9-7 and they had a couple of players that really stood out that day.

"It should be a good game because there are two sides that like to play a bit of rugby there."

The core of Sullivan's Medallion Shield winning team of 2011 remains in the ranks and Finlay believes that the big game experience should hold his side in good stead.

He continued: "We could have 10 players who started that Medallion Shield final so they will be used to this sort of occasion.

"It's a great credit to the school to have all the guys continuing through but it's a new challenge now."

Sullivan have a host of players who have gained representative honours over the past season with captain Ross Todd, as well as Dave Cave, Josh Davidson, Michael Cartmill and David McMaster, representing the Ulster Under-19 side, while Mark Adair, Peter Cooper, Zach Bradshaw, James Houston and Angus McCartney have all been selected by the U-18 squad.

There is no shortage of talent within the opposition ranks either and Coleraine's loose-head prop Danny McAllister is a particular standout.

Backrow forward Joel Stanbridge has also turned heads this season while captain Connor Shields is a force.

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In yesterday's Danske Bank Schools' Bowl final, Foyle College defeated Banbridge Academy 11-5 at Dungannon Rugby Club, all the scores coming in the first half.

The Derry team that took the lead with an Alex McDonnell penalty but Banbridge struck back when flanker Ethan Harbinson touched down.

Foyle's man of the match, centre Mark Wilson then showed his skills with a well worked try before McDonnell added a penalty.

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