News Image

Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 Previews Saturday 9th January 2016

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The seven Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 games are scheduled to take place on Saturday 9th January 2016.

One Preliminary Round game took place earlier in December when Carrickfergus Grammar School defeated Strabane Academy by 10-3 following a very closely contested game. The Carrickfergus GS team will now join thirteen other teams to contest the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 games.

Larne Grammar School will be delighted to be playing at home when they play their Round 1 game against the Royal School, Armagh team. The Larne Grammar School team has been working hard all season under the experienced eyes of coaches, Jonny Lowe and Barry Kirkpatrick. They had achieved some impressive results with their backrow trio of captain, Al Black, Matthew Magarell and Adam Maguire impressing with their hard work and endeavour in each of their games. The hard work the entire squad has put in on the training pitch has made it difficult for the coaching staff when it came to first choice selection time. John Hyndman is a key player for the team and he has been their top try scorer, as well as top points scorer, in the course of the season so far. His hard work has been recognised with his involvement with the Ulster U19 squad. Younger players such as Steven Topping and Micah Stevenson have really come through with their performances as well. Both of these players have been involved with Ulster Age Grade Development squads. The Larne Grammar School team has been unfortunate to lose a number of key players due to season ending injuries. Despite this the players and coaching staff still feel there is enough ability within the squad to overcome the injury issue. There is a very positive attitude within the Larne Grammar School squad at the minute and they will have enough confidence in their ability to cause what would be seen as an upset with a victory over the Royal School, Armagh team.

The Royal School, Armagh team, has experienced difficulties in terms of consistency in the course of the current season. The RS Armagh squad has also been impacted upon by injuries and they have only a small number of final year students from which to select. However, the younger members of the squad have been working really hard to raise the level of their performances. Team coaches, David Dougherty and Chris Parker, will be hoping all their hard work will pay off in the second term as the team prepares to travel to Larne for their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 encounter. Despite the difficulties the team has experienced this season they have managed to record a number of impressive victories, most notably against Coleraine Grammar School earlier in the season. A recent training camp, held at the Johnstown Hotel complex at Enfield, finished with the Royal School, Armagh squad playing a team from Cistercian College, Roscrea. The Cistercian squad are the current holders of the Leinster Schools’ Cup and the Royal School; Armagh team recorded a win against them in this game. Christopher Jennings, a player equally adept at playing full back or wing, along with Matthew Reaney are the leading try scorers for the RS Armagh team this season. Christopher, like his father John before him, represented Ulster Schools when he played against Connacht earlier in the season. Team captain, Josh Agnew represented the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ team in the Inter-Provincial series of games in September. Josh, who is also a Deputy Head Boy in the school, is a nephew of famous Old Armaghian, Ian McCall, and cousin of John McCall, who lifted the Schools’ Cup for the Royal School, Armagh team in 2004. James McSorley was also a member of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U18 squad while top points scorer, Michael Reaney, as well as Jack Cairns, have been involved with the Ulster Schools’ U17 squad. With seven Year 12 players in the squad one of whom, Archie McAlpine, is displaying tremendous potential, the Royal School, Armagh team will see their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup match against Larne Grammar School as an opportunity to really launch their season and give these young players a real feel for the future.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00am on Saturday 9th January

Lurgan College will host their near neighbours from Portadown College when they meet in their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 clash on Saturday 9th January. This is a very talented Lurgan College team that has made more than a few teams sit up and take notice throughout the current season. Team coach, Geoff Caldwell, and M-i-C rugby, Brian Hanna, set out to substantially improve their fixture list for this season. That seems to have had the desired effect with not many visiting teams coming away from the Lough Road venue with a win. Geoff and Brian have used the coaching skills of Trevor Carruthers to good effect and Trevor has developed a young back line that love to play constructive rugby with the ball in hand. Trevor has also worked on defensive patterns with the Lurgan College Senior Squads to good effect this season. Team captain, Jamie Hunter, is joined by his brother Ben in the Lurgan College team. There is a rugby pedigree par excellence in the Hunter brothers as their Grandfather, Ray, is a former Ulster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions player. Year 12 No 8, Reuben McCreery, is fast emerging as a very talented backrow player and one whose performances will surely be off interest to the Ulster Age Grade Talent ID personnel. Reuben is joined by his brother, Joel, in the Lurgan College team. The Lurgan College leading points scorer is their full back, Robbie Norton, a player whose trusty boot has landed a near perfect record of kicks during the current season. Any Portadown College indiscretions could be punished severely by Robbie. Such are the talents of this young player he is to be found wearing the Blue of Glenavon FC as well as the Navy and Red of Lurgan College throughout the season. The Lurgan College prop, Harry Simpson, represented the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ team earlier in the season. He has scored five tries for the team thus far with fellow prop, Ryan Emerson, scoring four. Outhalf, Jamie Patterson, has been among their leading try scorers as well. The Lurgan College squad is due to tour in South Africa during July 2016. They will look for a good run in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup to provide a strong platform for that tour.

The Portadown College team, coached by Andrew Symington who is assisted by Paul Heasley, has already recorded a win against Lurgan College this season. They will be keen to record a second victory when the teams meet in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. That win, earlier in the season, will give the Portadown College players a great deal of confidence as they prepare for the clash. They might even be justified in seeing themselves as favourites to win the game! The Portadown College team, captained by their energetic outhalf, Michael Orr, has a mixture of youth and experience in the ranks. They have nine Year 12 pupils, six Year 13 and eight Year 14 pupils involved with their extended 1stxv squad. They started the season strongly with a deserved victory against Bangor Grammar School and have gone on to win nine of their fourteen games. Scrum half, Brett Flack, is a son of Ian Flack who was a Schools’ Cup winner with Grosvenor Grammar School in 1983. Brett’s grandfather, Willie Gribben, was one of two people responsible for the introduction of Mini Rugby to Primary Schools and Clubs in the Province at the end of the 60’s. Matthew Neill, Peter McKeeman, James Hewitt, alongside captain, Michael Orr are key players in an attack minded Portadown College back division. Players such as Richard Gilpin, David McClelland, James Wright and Sam Whyte, bring Schools’ Cup experience to the Portadown College pack while Alistair Gilpin and Stewart Hodgen are emerging as vital players in the same unit. The coaching staff at Portadown College will expect these players to lead from the front.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 10-30am on Saturday 9th January.

Cambridge House will host Limavady Grammar School in their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Round 1 game on Saturday 9th January. It was a difficult start to the season for the Cambridge House team that saw quite a few of their Year 13 players from last season not returning to school in September. However, these players got a positive rugby experience during their time at Cambridge House and the school coach, John Nicholl, is proud of the fact these young players have all continued to develop their interest in the game by continuing to play with a successful Ballymena Rugby Club U18 team. John is assisted in his coaching duties by Matthew Harkness and Maurice Bell. They are dealing with a relatively inexperienced group of players but a group that has worked hard in the course of the season. Hooker, Kane McBride, is the team captain and he gets great assistance from his vice-captain, Harry Spiers. Both these players have set a great example for their younger colleagues and they have developed a great team bond both on and off the pitch. The team has lost more games than they have won so far this season but the turnouts at training have been excellent with all the senior players working hard for each other. A recent training camp close to Dublin has further developed the positive team spirit prevalent among all the members of the squad. Backrow forward, Reuben Russell, has impressed with his try scoring performances this season. In James Bovill, their top points scorer, they have a kicker who can punish any opposition indiscretions. James is an emerging talent who has formed a good midfield partnership with Sam Millar, another player who has produced some eye catching performances this season. Houston Bonnar has been involved with Ulster Age Grade squads and he will be expected to ensure his undoubted talent shows through in the cup game. The Cambridge House coaching staff recognises they are dealing with a very spirited group of mainly young players. They will be hoping for their best performance of the season in this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game.

The Limavady Grammar School team found themselves starting out in the 1st Round of last season’s Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup before exiting the completion in the 3rd Round after a closely contested game against the RS Armagh team. They will be hoping for, at least, a similar outcome this season. The Limavady Grammar School coaching team of Chris Nash and Brian Hughes has seen their young charges play well in many games this season but not able to close things out in the final quarter of the game. This is something the coaches have been working on and they are hopeful their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaign will show that lessons have been learnt. In players such as Ethan Sherrard, Gareth Kee and Aaron Rathfield the Limavady Grammar School team has the ability to ask questions of any opposition defence. Year 12 player, Jamie Young, is a member of the extended Limavady Grammar School squad who will be keen to show his skills if he gets on to pitch against the Cambridge House team. Team captain, Mark Woods, shares the top try scoring accolade with Ethan Sherrard while Jim McCartney has been very accurate with his trusty kicking boots. The team has recorded a number of welcome victories in the course of the season and would see their performances against leading teams such as Sullivan Upper, Wallace High School and Ballyclare High School as being decent. This is a young Limavady Grammar School squad with just five Year 14 players in the squad. Other Year 12 players such as James Scott, Robbie Hunter and Alistair McKee are all regular 1st xv players and they will be keen to display their talents in this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup match.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 7-30pm on Friday 8th January at Ballymena Rugby Football Club.

The Wellington College, Belfast team will host Friends’ School, Lisburn at the Carolan Road venue when the teams clash in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 game on Saturday 9th January. The Wellington College coach, Peter Chambers, who is assisted by Stuart Smith and Gareth Montgomery, takes great pride in the fact he has built up a senior squad of over forty players in the school, the greatest number of senior players he has ever had to work with. It is for this reason the Wellington College team will enter this fixture with a great degree of confidence. The team is captained by Jason Lyons, an all-action player who brings natural leadership skills to his role. Jason is also a Deputy Head Boy in the school. Vice-Captain, Glen Higgins, has achieved great success in another sporting sphere-that of swimming where he is a winner of multiple Ulster Schools’ Championships. The success Glen has experienced in swimming he would dearly love to see replicated in rugby. Both these players are central to the success of the Wellington College squad-a young squad of players who have experienced a good deal of success in the course of the current season. Their top points scorer this season is Jamie Hewitt. Jamie is a member of the famous Hewitt Rugby family ad he will be determined to show the Hewitt rugby genes are still to the fore in the modern schools’ game. Former players from Wellington College who have recently left the school have continued their involvement with the game by playing at local clubs. Nowhere can this be seen more than close by at Cooke RFC where seven of the current 1stxv squad have left Wellington College in recent years. The current players at Wellington College would be delighted to see these players, plus their colleagues from their days at the school, come along to provide support for their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 game.

The Friends’ School, Lisburn team has experienced a good deal of success in the course of the current season. However, this success has come at something of a cost with a number of established players now missing due to injury. Chief among these injury losses will be the non-availability of Gareth Hill, an astute lineout operator in both attacking and defensive lineouts. Gareth, who is Head Boy in the school, has also acted as captain in some games this season. His leadership qualities will be sorely missed. Team coach, Stephen Robinson, who is assisted by the evergreen Norman Gamble and Ivor Monaghan, has received great help from Peter Weir who is looking after the Strength and Conditioning of the Friends’ School squad. They will all be hoping that their batch of Ulster Schools’ U16 squad members, Ben McCaughey, Bradley Mulholland, George Pringle and Ross Stewart recover sufficiently well from injury setbacks to be available for selection. Team captain, James Maxwell, has missed a number of games but he is now back leading the team from the front. He leads a very workmanlike pack which has been dominant throughout the season. Kirk McGrady and Adam Milligan have been key to the success of the pack. These players will be asked to ensure the production of quality possession so that the Friends’ School backline, with David Stewart, Curtis Dundas and David Newell among a number of key players, will be in a position to ask questions of the Wellington College defence. An earlier victory against the same opposition will count for nothing as the Friends’ School team prepares for this game. Nothing less than their best on the day will see them through this difficult encounter.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 10-30am on Saturday 9th January.

The Royal School, Dungannon squad will be aware of the proud Ulster Schools’ Cup tradition they have inherited from previous RSD teams as they prepare to take on Carrickfergus Grammar School in the first round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup on Saturday 9th January. The team has been away to Portugal to prepare for the game, a game which will attract a lot of interest. In Portugal the squad had the opportunity to work on individual as well as unit skills, tactical awareness and the strength and conditioning aspects of the game. The RS Dungannon coach, Gareth McClintock, will be well aware of the talents of a number of the players his team will play against as Gareth taught in Carrickfergus GS before taking up his post in Dungannon a short number of years ago! Gareth is assisted by the experienced Gareth Lucas and Jason Hunniford and the RS Dungannon coaching staff will be determined to get into the second round of the competition. They have won the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Trophy in each of the last two seasons and there is no desire within the camp to defend that particular trophy. Team captain, Peter Doran, brings a wealth of representative experience to his squad. He was a key member of the Ulster U19 squad and is looking forward to being involved with the next Ulster U20 squad. Peter was joined in the U19 squad by David Cooper, the hooker, who has used Peter as one of his main lineout  targets throughout the season. Joseph Cashel, Aaron Perry and Josh Fegan have among the leading try scorers this season with Aaron kicking quite a few points with his trusty place kicking skills. As well as the experienced players such as Peter Doran and David Cooper in the RS Dungannon pack there are a number of emerging players who have caught the eye as well. Josh Patton, their Year 12 Number 8, is a nephew of Keith Patton, the former RS Dungannon, Ulster and Ireland Schools’ Coach. Beside Josh in the RS Dungannon backrow is Calvin Nelson, a young player renowned for his pace and tenacious tackling ability. Calvin is a cousin of one of the rising stars of Ulster Rugby, Peter Nelson. These young players will be hoping to have a positive influence on the eventual outcome of the game for the Royal School, Dungannon team.

The Carrickfergus Grammar School team, coached by Neal Kennedy, Peter Martin and Paul Baxter, came successfully through their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Preliminary Round game against a spirited Strabane Academy team. This win should perhaps settle the nerves of the Carrickfergus Grammar School squad as they prepare to take on the RS Dungannon team. The Carrickfergus GS team had a successful cup campaign last season but they lost quite a few of the starting xv from that campaign. Indeed, only Fionn McCormack remains from that starting xv and he is a player the RS Dungannon team will need to monitor closely. Fionn has been at the centre of all that has positive for the Carrickfergus GS team this season. He is the leading points scorer for his team and the player whose game management skills got his team over the line in their preliminary round game. Team captain, Nathan Fugard, made his presence felt against the Strabane Academy team and he got great support from players such as Nathan Doherty, Aaron Stevenson, Josh Boys, Ian Woodside, Jeremy Addley and Peter Mitchell during that game. Nathan forms an effective half back partnership with Fionn McCormack as was seen in the game against Strabane Academy. Everyone associated with the Carrickfergus Grammar School team will be hoping that their hard-working backrow forward, Mark Snoddy, will be available for selection for the game against the Royal School, Dungannon team. If Mark can make it onto the pitch for the game it could prove be a major psychological boost for his colleagues.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 10-45am on Saturday 9th January.

Banbridge Academy will be hoping for an improvement in their fortunes when they play Antrim Grammar School in their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 game on January 9th. The Banbridge Academy squad has found it difficult to come by victories in the course of the current season although they have been very close on a number of occasions. The squad, coached by Brian Leslie, who has been assisted by Roy Stevenson, is a mixture of youth and experience. Nine Year 14 players, ten Year 13 and six Year 12 players are in line for selection for this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup match against Antrim Grammar School with the final twenty three players being selected early in the New Year. Nine of the squad, including their experienced halfback partnership of Jordan Mount and Ben Thompson, played in the same fixture last season and the entire Banbridge Academy squad will be hoping for a similar outcome! Team captain, winger, Michael McGaffin, will be looking to players such as Tom Lyttle, Timmy Beattie, Ethan Cromie and Peter Heaney in the Banbridge Academy pack to lay the foundations for a victory in the course of this game. Jordan Mount and Timmy Beattie have been the leading try scorers and both these players have been involved in Ulster Age Grade Development squads. Ben Thompson will hope to add to his growing reputation as a points scorer for the Banbridge Academy team while Ben Russell and Jack Dologhan, in the Banbridge Academy back division, will hope to take advantage of any try scoring opportunities that come their way.

The Antrim Grammar School squad has been working hard in preparation for their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 game against Banbridge Academy. The coaching team of Robin McKenna, Mark Hermin and Michael Duncan has seen their young charges improve week on week since the start of the season. The coaches have taken on a fixture list that has been appropriate for the requirements of the Antrim GS squad. This, in turn, has led to the development of a greater number of senior players in the school which has seen a great deal of competition for places on the starting xv. Team captain, Daniel McGrandles, is a player who leads his team with great aplomb. He has high expectations of all his players and his players have supported him fully in all their games this season. The Antrim Grammar School team has recorded close encounters with teams such as Belfast High School, Larne Grammar School and Lurgan College. Their hard work will see them approach their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup match against Banbridge Academy with a great degree of confidence. JJ McKee, a member of the Ulster Schools’ U18 squad, is a player to be watched and has been among the top try scorers for his team this season. Adam Johnston and Daniel McGrandles are regular try scorers as well. The Banbridge Academy team will have to monitor closely, not only these players, but also players such as Josh Battishill, Andy Craig and Jack Francis, if there is not to be what would be seen as an upset on the cards. Brothers, John and Patrick Adair, are vital members of the Antrim Grammar School squad and if the Antrim Grammar School players can continue with their positive approach to this game it could prove to be more than an interesting encounter.

This game is scheduled to kick off at 10-30am on Saturday 9th January.

Belfast High School will hope for a change in fortunes when they host Foyle and Londonderry College in their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup Round 1 clash on Saturday 9th January. Like a number of other schools the Belfast High School team lost a large number of players at the end of last season and are currently in rebuild mode. Team coaches, Michael Rainey and David Scott, are experienced personnel who realise that the rebuilding phase can take a few seasons to bear fruit. They have a group of talented young players with which to work but it might be another year before the true potential of their young charges can be fully realised. The Belfast High School captain, Harry Burbidge, realises he has to get his colleagues into a positive frame of mind as they prepare for the clash with the team from the Maiden City. He will look to the experiences gained by Tyler Arnold who was involved with the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U18 squad earlier in the season. Tyler has been among the top try scorers for the Belfast High School team this season and he will be keen to add to that statistic during the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game. Simon White is another key player for the Belfast High School team and he will be keen to punish any infringements from the opposition. He has built up an impressive points tally already this season and will be only too willing to add to that tally. The emerging talents of Belfast High School players such as Sam McBride and Ryan Gibson, allied to the skills of Tyler Arnold and Simon White, could be key to the eventual outcome of this game.

The Foyle and Londonderry College team has been working hard in preparation for their trip to play Belfast High School in the first round of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup. It seems to have been an indifferent season, so far, for the Foyle College team in terms of results. However, a closer analysis of their performances would suggest that very few of the teams they have played were much better. The Foyle College coaches, David Barnett and Ian Orr, have worked hard to ensure their players are well up for this game. A recent victory in a game against a very good City of Derry RFC U18 team will have given the team a great deal of confidence in their ability as they finalise preparations for the cup game. Team captain, Callum McDonnell, is a younger brother of last season’s captain, Alex. There will be no shortage of sound advice from that source. Ian Orr, as well as having a “professional” interest in the game, will have a personal interest in the game as his son, Matthew, has emerged as a key player for the team throughout the current season. Not only has Matthew been an effective try scorer with the ball in hand but he is also an outstanding place kicker who has been the leading points scorer for his team this season. His performance on Boxing Day against the City of Derry RFC U18 team bears witness to his abilities. Reece Hughes, Matthew Alford, Thomas Cole, Cameron McCracken, Stephen Mills and Killene Thornton are other Foyle and Londonderry College players whose performances will need to be closely monitored by the Belfast High School defenders when the teams clash in their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup game

This game is scheduled to kick off at 11-00am on Saturday 9th January.