Methodist’s method of success remains dominant
Methodist College, hoping to reach the final of the Northern Bank Schools' Cup for the 60th time and clinch the trophy for the fourth time in five years, should overcome Ballymena Academy in the second semi-final at Ravenhill this afternoon (2.30pm).
The Belfast team, probably not as good as last season, have suffered a couple of defeats against southern opposition, but have since moved into a winning mode.
Their pack is very strong and is the foundation to their success with Rory Harrison, Conor Carey and Paddy McKee all showing up well. Their three-quarters are just as formidable with Paddy Jackson, Ryan Martin, Mark Gribben and Blane McIlroy putting in tremendous performances in their wins over Armagh Royal 13-6 and Ballyclare High 20-0.
They have shown their attacking play but their defence is also solid in that they have not conceded a try so far in the competition — only two penalties.
Kenny Hooks, the former Irish international and Armagh Royal coach, felt that his team had strong robust forwards but it was only when he went to Pirrie Park that he realised how enormous the Methody pack were.
“No team in the province will match them,” he said.
Nicky Wells, the Methody coach, was disappointed with the performance against Ballyclare. “There was no-one good enough to be considered for a man-of-the-match,” he said. “But since then they have had two weeks to prepare for this semi-final.”
That rest combined with the honing of their individual skills will be to their advantage whereas Ballymena will be playing their second energy-sapping tie in six days.
They needed a last move of the game try to eliminate Friends' 11-10 last Saturday after previously drawing 11-11 at home. In the previous round they had a |22-3 success at Limavady Grammar and, so far, have scored five tries and conceded three.
Ballymena, like their opponents, have a number of representative players in their line-up and Irish Schools' Charlie Simpson is an attacking full-back. His skills were proved with that try at Friends, but whether Ballymena can win enough ball for him to show his capabilities is another matter.
As one experienced schools' coach said: “Methody, even if they are not playing at their best, are still good enough to beat any team in the province.”
They are expected to go forward to face Belfast Royal Academy in the final at Ravenhill.
MCB: B McIlroy, M Gribben, M Best, R Martin, J Stanfield, P Jackson, D McElhinney, J Camara, R Harrison, C Carey, C Long, J Andress, P McKee, G Reilly, R Winters.
Ballymena Academy: C Simpson, M McBride, C Delpy, P Storey, C Morrison, C Patterson, P Banda, S McNabney, K Galloway, G Hargy, M Rea, D Whann, T Patton, J Andrew, P Wallace.
Referee: C Stanley.