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Who are the key players in the quarter-finals of the Schools' Cup?


Having a ball: Bangor Grammar’s Conor Lusty releases the ball during training
Having a ball: Bangor Grammar’s Conor Lusty releases the ball during training
Aaron Sexton in possession

By Michael Sadlier

It looks a pretty daunting task to take on Methodist College Belfast at their Pirrie Park home, but the prospect is not intimidating Bangor Grammar School ahead of tomorrow's Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup quarter-final.

Indeed, the north Down school, who are clear underdogs for this tie, believe that they are not just making up the numbers and can book themselves a place in the competition's last four.

  • Scroll down for all the fixtures, squads and key players.

"We've obviously got a lot of respect for Methody," said Bangor head of rugby and senior coach Jason Morgan.

"But we've got a group of boys this year who really believe in themselves and who play for each other.

"We want to go out there and make a statement that we're here to play.

"And the biggest thing for us is that our boys believe they can cause an upset.

"We've just got to get over that mental barrier of the Methody shirt."

Morgan's philosophy is centred on instilling an enjoyment of playing, and not being overwhelmed or intimidated by the pressure of any given occasion, and going to Pirrie Park is not seen as a particular hindrance as Bangor Grammar won last year's Schools' Bowl at the venue.

"If we can get to half-time, say, leading 6-3, it's going to put a whole lot of pressure on them and that could work for us as underdogs," said the Kiwi, who also coaches club rugby at Bangor.

Though the school have not lifted the Schools' Cup since 1988 - their third win from four consecutive appearances in those heady days - nor featured in a final after losing to RBAI in 1995, Morgan is confident that Bangor are gradually getting back towards featuring more prominently in the competition's latter stages.

They also come into tomorrow's clash having an extra game under their belts after getting through a third-round replay with Omagh Academy before defeating Rainey Endowed last time out.

"I think that extra game with Omagh, after coming away with the draw, really set the boys up well," stated Morgan.

Despite a high turnover from last year's first team, Bangor have a strong spine to this season's squad, and with only around five of the current side in their final year there is optimism for the next campaign as well.

Skipper Zach Kerr is at centre and the final year pupil is highlighted by senior coach Morgan as being one of five key players in the side.

Aaron Sexton, who this season has been moved from the back three to out-half, has featured for Ireland Schools and the sprinter who won gold last year at the Commonwealth Youth Games is a key leader, along with Kerr.

Interestingly, Kerr's father Chris and Sexton's father Roger both played on the last Bangor side to win the Schools' Cup 30 years ago.

But Bangor can also count on a number of very useful forwards in their No.8 Gareth Wells, prop Ben McCrossan and second row Riley Westwood.

Encouragingly, the team will have all these players, bar Kerr, back for next season.

In terms of teams and numbers playing the game, Morgan reckons that around 250 of the school's 800 boys are involved and aims to increase that figure towards having half the school playing rugby.

This season saw the school put out a third team at senior level, while normally two teams are put out at Medallion level as well as at Under-13 and Under-14 levels. Four sides tog out at Year Eight.

The school also has strong links with Bangor and Donaghadee rugby clubs, with Morgan, of course, also working at the former and his forwards coach at the school, Samoan Ale Alatise, having been brought in from the nearby Upritchard Park-based club as well to improve the Grammar's set-piece work.

Phil Cartmill is also an assistant coach, who has worked with Ulster Under-17s, and he oversees the backline with Morgan, who began his role with the school in April 2010, which includes coaching cricket, in overall charge of the system.

The school has plans to tour South Africa next year with a squad of around 45 boys making the trip with the idea being that a visit overseas could become a regular feature every three or four years.

The work being done at Bangor has not gone unnoticed and has been recognised in terms of the number and quality of players being produced at under-age level for Ulster.

Having one of Ulster Rugby's coveted Academy Partnerships has been a massive boost as Bangor are one of only five schools to have been granted this status from the province.

"It's essentially giving us extra support and recognition of the rugby experience the boys are getting from the level of coaching, the style of rugby and the whole culture about what we do," Morgan explained.

"That was a significant deal for us in that it recognises that we are producing talent.

"I know it's tough when you're not winning cups but I try to measure it on the number of Ulster players we're producing and we're definitely achieving that and making progress.

"I look at this place like a sleeping giant," he added before turning his attention again to tomorrow.

"All the pressure is on Methody and no one expects anything much from us.

"If our boys enjoy it and work for each other, then anything is possible."

Fixtures and squads for the Schools' Cup quarter-finals

Campbell College v Ballymena Academy (kick-off 10.30 am)

Campbell College squad: John McKee, Harry Jenkins, John Gildea, Oisin Kiernan, John Harrison, Jack Stinson, Sam Robinson, Jamie McCartney, Matthew Poor, Jamie Brennan, Patrick McAlpine, Toni Olaniyan, Matthew Carlisle, James Johnston, Dara Gaskin, Will Davis, Rex Tinsley, Harry Owens, Oscar Yandall, Conor Rankin, Lucas Yandall, Kieran Robertson, Jack McAllister.

Coaches: Brian Robinson, Johnny Cupitt, Neil Doak.

Captain: John McKee.

Rep Players: Oisin Kieran, John McKee, Jack Stinson, Jamie McCartney, Ben Power, Conor Rankin.

Star Player: Prop Oisin Kieran is superb in the loose and scored two tries against Dalriada in the last round.

Ballymena Academy squad: Ben Savage, Ben Johnston, Simon McWhirter, Jamie Ruddock, John Glass, Jonathan Browne, Harry Cooke, Harry Bill, Paul Gocher, Rory Corr, James McClean, Oisin Jordan, Joshua McAuley, Louis McGuckian, Ben Savoury, Bruce Houston, Angus Steele, Stewart Moore, Tiarnan Martin, Mark Thompson, Alex McKinney, Curtis Wylie, Matthew Corr, Jordan Foster, Harry Gaston.

Coaches: John Andrews, Gavin Murray, Ryan Keating.

Captain: Joshua McAuley.

Rep Players: Ben Savage, Oisin Jordan, Joshua McAuley, Bruce Houston, Stewart Moore, Mark Thompson.

Star Player: Centre Bruce Houston has an eye for a gap and is also their accurate goal kicker.

Methodist College v Bangor Grammar (kick-off 10.30 am)

Methodist College squad: Daire Morelli, Conor Kelly, Ben Crangle, Max Lyttle, Jonah Bingham, Luke Sullivan, Samuel Bernard, Matthew Neill, Thomas Armstrong, Chris Larmour, John Fletcher, Kevin McNaboe, Connor Scollan, Ethan McIlroy, Patrick Johnston, Michael Humphreys, Dan Dougan, Tom Millar, Jack Watson, Adam Reid, Louis Lowry, Tom O’Doherty, Robbie Armstrong.

Coaches: Nick Wells, Stephen Lindsay.

Captain: Matthew Neill.

Rep Players: Ethan McIlroy, Ben Crangle, Kevin McNaboe, Thomas Armstrong, Robbie Armstrong, Chris Larmour.

Star Player: Conor Scollan has speed and determination on the wing with many tries to his credit.

Bangor Grammar squad: Ben McCrossan, Johnny Gamble, Rhys Brown, Robbie Winters, Riley Westwood, Jack Gibson, Adam Pritchard, Gareth Wells, Rhys Larmour, Aaron Sexton, Matthew Quinn, Conor Lusty, Zach Kerr, Cameron Stewart, Daniel Young, Dylan Moore, Ben Cavan, Callum Bain, Reuben McKeown, Matthew Bell, Munroe Kerr, Will Simpson, Sam Gordon, Ollie Hamilton.

Coach: Jason Morgan.

Captain: Zach Kerr.

Star Player: Daniel Young is an attacking full-back who has scored in each of the previous rounds.

RBAI v Sullivan Upper (kick-off 10.45 am)

RBAI squad: AJ Hussell, Alex Weir, Angus Adair, Bradley NcNamara, Connor McCormick, Daniel Eakin, David Lyttle, David McCann, Ewan Magee, Jack Magee, James Heyburn, Jamie Mullan, Jared Waite, Jude Postlethwaite, Kyle McComiskey, Manso Manso, Max Preston, Niall Armstrong, Robin McIlveen, Rory Adair, Simon Jackson, Simon McMaster, Stuart Cameron, Stuart McAuley, Jim Lyons, Tom Lavern.

Coaches: Daniel Soper, Richard Hedley.

Captain: David McCann.

Rep Players: David McCann, Angus Adair, Rob Lyttle, Niall Armstrong, Robin McIlveen.

Star Player: Back row forward AJ Hussell put in a lot of work in the 17-0 victory over Ballyclare High.

Sullivan Upper squad: Ben Holley, Charlie Shannon, Luke McCabe, Henry Redpath-Whooley, Harry Sheridan, Shaun Tyler, Matthew Martin, William Cave, Jamie Thallon, Patrick Casement, George Saunderson, Ethan Christie, Harry Baird, Stephen Moore, Adam McKenna, Oliver Faith, Conor McKee, Connor Mills, Andrew Weir, Jack Crishop, Rory Houston, Andrew NcConnell, Jacob Cavanagh, Tim Hart, Shay Storey, George Robb, Thomas Leitch.

Coaches: Adam Craig, David Armstrong, Chris Henderson.

Captain: Adam McKenna.

Star Player: Scrum-half Connor McKee is the perfect link between forwards and backs.

Wallace High v RS Armagh (kick-off 10.30 am)

Wallace High squad: Jack Bailie, Harry Long, Sam Cardosi, Daniel Kilpatrick, Andrew Reid, Jack Ferguson, Peter McRoberts, Jack Brown, Reuben Crothers, Joel Dundas, Dean McCavery, Andrew Dorman, Harry McMeekin, Nathan Robinson, Ben Morrison, Dillon Sedge, Ben Carson, Jamie Peters, Ben Smyth, Matthew Smyth, Nathan Doak, Jack Dillon, Josh Cardosi, Lewis Nelmes, TL Bradley, Jamie McNeight, Chris Quinn, Sam Hayes.

Coaches: Derek Suffern, Ian Latham.

Captain: Sam Cardosi.

Rep Players: Nathan Doak, Joel Dundas, Peter McRoberts, Jack Dillon, Ben Carson, Reuben Crothers.

Star Player: Ben Carson’s acceleration and strength produced a couple of tries in the 38-5 success at Dungannon.

RS Armagh squad: Jack Chapman, Adam Edgar, James Brown, Sam Rainey, Jonny Agnew, Ben Hughes, Jack Traynor, Jude Roberts, Ryan Finlay, Samuel King, Archie McAlpine, Graham Crawford, Ryan O’Neill, Alton Woods, Alex Johnston, Charlie Worth, Benjamin Boyd, Oliver Webb, Zac Thompson, Matthew Rainey, Nicholas Jennings, Michael Campbell, Ben Lavery, Callum Whiteside, Romain Morrow.

Coach: Willie Faloon.

Captain: Jack Traynor.

Rep players: Jonny Agnew, Ryan O’Neill, Jude Roberts, Charlie Worth, Nicholas Jennings.

Star Player: Powerful and agile Jack Traynor will win an abundance of line-out ball.

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