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Tough start for Methody

Methodist College start the defence of the Northern Bank Schools' Cup competition with a difficult encounter against fellow 'seeded' team Armagh Royal on Saturday week.

With these two meeting early it will give an opportunity for lesser teams to progress further in the competition.

Methody, who have won the trophy more than any other team, have lost a number of players from last season and, in consequence are not just as formidable. Last year they were undefeated but this season's record has not been so good with some losses.

They have lost a couple of games against Southern opposition where the standard of rugby appears to be better and on Friday evening they gained a psychological boost when a superb performance gave them a win over top English Schools' side Colston at Shaw's Bridge.

So Methody, with their cup tradition and three wins in the past four seasons will start favourites when Armagh face their might at Pirrie Park.

The Malone Road team still have a number of players back and will depend on the skills of Conor Carey, Paddy McKee, Rory Harrison, Paddy Jackson and Blane McIlroy.

Armagh have been having a very successful season and are still undefeated although they have not faced their Belfast rivals. They have talented players in Irish Schools' scrum-half Harry Doyle as well as Neil Falloon and Jonathan Dixon who have represented Ulster Schools.

Other players to watch would be Simon Carlisle, Andrew Smyth, and Andrew Magowan.

The other tie involving 'seeded' teams is the contest between Belfast Royal Academy and RBAI. Inst have had many injury problems all season and have only recently managed to bring their complete squad together.

They have a few satisfying results including success against PBC who are expected to progress far in the Munster Schools' competition.

Last year's defeated finalists have representative players Kevin McLean, Alastair Andress, Zac Welshman and Michael Kilpatrick in action.

Academy have a couple of talented players with Stuart Olding always looking for an opening to show his speed while Ian Henderson, Mark Glover and David Cartmill can be expected to put in a good performance.

On Saturday they met in a friendly with Academy winning 11-10 in a closely contested encounter.

This game was at Osborne so Academy may have the advantage when the two meet again on Saturday week in north Belfast. Inst’s Richard Hedley knows what they have to do: “It will give us a chance to gain revenge for Saturday's defeat.”

Campbell College, another side to be brought into the reckoning, have the all-round strength to eliminate Dalriada, especially at Belmont. Sullivan Upper, another team that could go further, easily defeated Foyle/Londonderry College and will give Friends' a game at Lisburn.

Wallace High with their excellent record in the competition will have to wait to see who wins Wednesday's replay between Dungannon Royal and Omagh Academy.

The draw for the fourth round of the Northern Bank Schools' Cup to be played on Feb 6 is: Methodist College v Armagh Royal, Coleraine AI v Regent House, Campbell College v Dalriada, Wallace High v Dungannon Royal or Omagh Academy, Friends' School v Sullivan Upper, Limavady Grammar v Ballymena Academy, Ballyclare High v Portora Royal and Belfast RA v RBAI.

The draw for the quarter-finals of the Northern Bank Subsidiary Shield is;- Bangor Grammar v Down High, Foyle/Londonderry College v Dungannon Royal or Omagh Academy, Larne Grammar v Banbridge Academy and Rainey Endowed v Grosvenor Grammar.

Belfast Telegraph