Methody are the most successful team in the history of the Schools Cup - they have contested 60 finals winning the trophy on 33 times and sharing it on two other occasions.
They enter this year’s competition as defending champions after beating Ballyclare in last year’s decider and will be among the favourites to lift the cup again.
However, skipper Ross Kane feels Methody can handle the expectation.
“There is a bit of pressure but that makes the game a bit better and more challenging to play. There is pressure on our shoulders but we try not to think about that and just go into our matches with a clear head every week,” said Kane.
“The season has been going well as we haven’t had any defeats yet, we are taking every week as it comes and we’re just trying to play the best we can.”
“There is a lot of incentive to be the last captain to walk up there and lift the cup for the last time in the old stand so there is a lot to work for,” he added.
Last year’s winning captain Rory Winters has gone to Queen’s and despite losing a lot of players Kane is confidence the new faces can step up.
“Five or six players have gone, they are players who weren’t on the starting team but were replacements have come in and they have experience of the cup last year,” he said.
Last season’s beaten finalists Ballyclare will be hoping to end a 40 year drought by lifting the trophy this time around.
Their only success came with a 13-8 win over RBAI in 1973 and captain Johnny Darling is hoping the side can go all the way this time around.
“Last year it was really tough getting all that way and falling at the final hurdle but this year we still have got a good time and hopefully we can go one better,” said Darling.
“The final was very tough and I think we were desperately unlucky with the conditions and we really couldn’t prepare for the wind. It kind of died down in the second half which would have been handy for us, but I don’t feel we played to our full potential that day and we want to try and put it right this year.”
However there has been a big turnover in players.
“I think we have lost about 10 players from last year, we had a poor start to the season but as it has progressed we have got a lot of injured players back and the ones come through to replace the ones from last year have kind of surprised us, we are confident that they can fill the places left from last year.”
Darling is hoping he is the last captain to make lift the cup in the old stand.
“It’s a bit of extra motivation. I would have loved to have won it last year and it would be even more special to lift that cup and hopefully we can do that.”
Belfast Royal Academy exited in the third round last season losing 11-8 at Rainey Endowed but captain Mark Wylie is hoping for an extended cup run this year.
BRA have only won the competition outright once when they BEAT Inst 12-0 in 1997 but have shared the title three times and lost in five other finals.
“It’s a big time for the whole school and there is a big buzz about the place and a long campaign will get everyone excited and hopefully we can go far this year,” said Wylie.
“The squad is shaping well and we are starting to hit a good bit of form now, previously we were playing in dribs and drabs and maybe only performing for 20 minutes in every game but now we are starting to come through and starting to gel together.
“It’s hard with new squads every year but it is starting to come together for us,” he added.
Wylie doesn’t believe that BRA coming into the tournament in the later rounds is an advantage.
“I think it can work both ways, people see the sides coming in at the fourth rounds as big teams and big names and that can put pressure on the opposition but coming in during the earlier rounds maybe gives you a chance to settle into the cup a bit better, I don’t think it matters when you come in as long as you beat everyone against you.”
Iain Henderson came through the BRA ranks and he was involved in Ireland’s three autumn tests.
Wylie continued: “Iain is an inspiration to everyone at the school. There are a lot of boys in the squad seeing how successful he has been has really encouraged everybody to work harder and that it can happen for anyone.”
Wylie is hoping to be leading his side up the steps to lift the trophy.
“It would be pretty special and when you think of the names that have walked up and lifted the schools cup before and it would be amazing to be the last one at the current Ravenhill,” he added.
Campbell College won the cup two years ago but their defence ended in the semi final last year when they lost to Belfast rivals Methody.
Campbell are the third must successful side in the cup’s history with 23 outright wins and four shared titles and captain Rab Haldane believes to be victorious you have got to time your run right.
“There is a bit of pressure on us and it means we have to perform consistently throughout the season and peak at the right time,” said Haldane.
“It is important for us to peak at the right time so we can come in and compete with our rivals Methody and Inst and hopefully knock them out and win the schools cup.
“The season has been going well but the last two weeks haven’t been great team performances, two weeks ago we put a lot of points on Inst but against Sullivan and Methody weren’t the best but there is a lot more to come.”
Haldane wants to be the last captain to lift the trophy at the current Ravenhill.
“It would be good to be the 90th and last captain to walk up them steps, hopefully if we perform well and peak at the right time I will be the last captain walking up there,” he said.
Dalriada went out in the round of 16 last season but captain Timothy Emerson is hoping they side can go all the way and lift the cup for the first ever time.
“There is a big buzz around the school and we always get a big crowd out to watch it, the boys get fired up and are ready for it,” said Emerson.
“Ever since I was at primary school my one dream was to play at Ravenhill and walk up the steps and lift the cup, it would be the first time ever Dalriada would have come and won it and it would be a great honour to be the first captain to do that.”
Former Belfast Harlequins assistant coach David Dougherty has arrived at Dalriada and Emerson is happy with how the season has gone so far.
“The season has gone well, he (Dougherty) came in and didn’t know many of us, we have had a good squad at training and we’re developing quite well,” he explained.
“We had a good start and then we were having good performances and maybe not getting the result but we are building towards the cup and that is what it is about.”