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Methody confident despite shifted Schools' Cup landscape

 

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Skipper: Adam Reid will hope to lead Methody into the final

Skipper: Adam Reid will hope to lead Methody into the final

Skipper: Adam Reid will hope to lead Methody into the final

Though these sides met in last year's semi-finals, today's last-four clash comes with what appears to be an altered landscape to the one in view 12 months ago.

Back then, a highly fancied Methodist College Belfast prevailed as they progressed towards expectedly claiming the Danske Bank Schools' Cup for the first time in five years, ending quite a famine for the competition's most successful team.

But now, Wallace High are the ones being whispered about as having a squad of sufficient ability to not only get past Methody and make the final, but also go on to lift the trophy for the very first time in the Lisburn school's history.

Having said that, Methody are the ones with that indefinable Cup pedigree, frequently reaching the last two and, indeed, they have managed to contest five of the last eight finals having only lost once in that time.

Whatever the outcome, this contest will be the most challenging yet for either school, after they both, unsurprisingly, negotiated their way through two knockout rounds.

Methody head coach Nick Wells, when observing that the vast bulk of last year's all-conquering team have now departed, said: "This was maybe considered to be a down year for us, or part of a rebuilding process. But the boys this year have had none of it and have really driven on.

"The school has a fantastic tradition (in the Cup) but these guys have to find their own paths. They've got to manage the expectation and the nerves but that's why we've played the likes of Blackrock College and others.

"We try and replicate Cup games and Cup atmospheres as much as possible. We've exposed them to this, especially after Christmas, and they've relished it and come into their own."

Their resolve was certainly tested in the quarter-final with Sullivan when Methody's strength and organisation shone through in their battling 15-5 win.

"It's as pleasing a squad as I've been involved in over recent years in terms of just exceeding the expectation," said the long-serving Wells.

"We have full respect for Wallace High School, but we're travelling (to Kingspan Stadium) with confidence."

Methody's pack is, as usual, a strength, with flanker and skipper Adam Reid setting the tone, though the Belfast school also have a strong-running backline where Callum Davidson is a real danger.

Both were part of last year's winning side, which is also of significant value to the holders.

Wallace, though, possess players of real quality including Nathan Doak, skipper Reuben Crothers and Ben Carson.

Wallace head coach Derek Suffern, whose side have beaten Bangor Grammar and Ennisillen Royal Grammar to reach this point, said: "Our preparation has gone really well.

"We are largely a different group of players this year, though there are a number of guys who have learned from that experience last year (of losing the semi-final).

"We've a few good players who have played representative rugby but, as everyone knows, those individuals don't do it for you.

"We're working really hard this year to just try and improve our collective and working as a group.

"We've had a good year, but this is Cup rugby. You can be seen as a favourite but, really, if you look at recent history the Belfast schools are always the favourites.

"We'll give our all and we know that Methody are going to be very tough."

Belfast Telegraph