Dalriada and Bangor bosses put future in hands of youth
Dalriada, the 2014 winners of the Danske Bank Subsidiary Shield, have since seen an exodus of players and a new coach in Rab Gregg.
The former Cambridge House master is hoping that a couple of his key players will be fit in time for tomorrow morning's Schools' Cup tie at Bangor Grammar.
"Our captain Michael Finnerty has been out with a knee ligament problem for eight weeks and prop Aaron Christie had his first run out on Tuesday," he said.
"It has been a difficult time with injuries and also lack of game time as we've only played twice in the past eight weeks.
"Our team is young with only four Upper Sixth pupils in action while Michael Lockhart, who scored in the final, is a big asset in the backs. Our front five are all fifth formers bar one, while numbers 9,10, 12 and 13 are also at the same level.
"Our form so far has been mixed with five wins and five the losses which were by narrow margins when we probably played at our best.
"If we are fully fit and play at our best we can give Bangor a good run even away from home."
Bangor are also weakened from last season and in one game had 11 fifth formers in their team.
Coach Jason Morgan feels that the few core players he has will generate confidence in the young ones.
"Sean Fair is making his third year appearance and he is an enthusiastic scrum-half with his intelligent kicking and distribution," he said.
"Matthew Agnew, one of the fifth formers, is a fantastic player and has played for Ulster Schools' which is a phenomenal achievement at his age.
"Hopefully prop Connor McKee will also return after injury. He is built like a No 8 with a strong running capacity but he fractured his jaw in a tackle December," he added.
"Thankfully we have a home draw as our previous games against Dalriada have produced mixed results.
"We have met a few times in the past few seasons, the last being last February when we won 20-0. We also faced them in the cup in 2011 and 2012 when the victories were shared."
Bangor and Dalriada are only entering the competition at this second round stage, as are Armagh Royal School and Belfast High.
Armagh coach Gareth Beggs said: "Our captain and centre Michael Thompson was sidelined with a broken hand for a number of weeks but thankfully he has come through the last couple of games successively.
"We have 10 of last year's squad back and that includes our speedy centre Josh Agnew.
"Fifth former and winger Chris Jennings has shown astonishing potential but we will be relying a lot on the forwards especially Jack Slater and our representative player prop Philip Matthews."
Belfast High have already played at Armagh before Christmas with the home side gaining a narrow victory.
High School's Mickey Rainey believes his team have the better backs but supplying them with enough ball could be the main problem.
"Joel McBride, son of Ireland's 32-capped flanker Denis, is a star performer at out-half and he has played for Ulster Schools, while second row Sam McBride and back row Tyler Arnold have been in the Development Squad," he said.
The other ties are: Down High v Rainey Endowed, Carrickfergus Grammar v Belfast Royal Academy, Regent House v Foyle College, Portadown College v Limavady Grammar, Portora Royal v Banbridge Academy, Grosvenor Grammar v Omagh Academy.