The Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup final will take place at the Kingspan Stadium at 3pm on St Patrick’s Day when Royal Belfast Academical Institution will play their long established adversaries from Methodist College, Belfast.
RBAI has reached the final confident in the fact they are favourites to win the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup for a third successive season. They have come through their campaign having defeated Ballyclare High School comfortably in Round 4, and working hard before recording a close victory at Campbell College in the quarter-final.
In the semi final, they dealt efficiently with an out of sorts Ballymena Academy team to book their place in the showpiece.
RBAI Director of Rugby, Dan Soper, has built up an impressive array of talent around him in terms of both staff and players.
Team manager, the experienced Andrew Douglas, has a strong captain in Michael Lowry, who was a leading player with the successful Ulster U19 team earlier in the season. He was one of a number of key decision makers in that squad and provides a similar role with this Belfast Inst team. Michael sets very high standards for himself and expects nothing less from his team mates. He is more that keen to follow in the footsteps of his immediate predecessors as captains of the RBAI team, Conor Field and Lewis McNamara, in stepping up to lift the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup on St Patrick’s Day.
His captaincy skills were well tested in the course of the semi-final game where he scored an outstanding try. Michael’s half back partner, Rhys O’Donnell, is an outstanding prospect who was another member of the Ulster U19 squad.
Rhys gained International recognition last season when he played on the Ireland U18 3 Nations team against a France U18 and the England Home Counties U18 teams. In recent games he has taken the development of his game to another level.
Methodist College will be pleased to be seen in the eyes of many as the outsiders to win this eagerly anticipated clash.
However, no Methodist team should ever be underestimated and their players had to work hard before overcoming a resolute Down High School team in the fourth round.
They were also ou to the test before coming from a long way back to defeat Royal School, Armagh in tough quarter-final game before overcoming Belfast Royal Academy in the semi-final.
Methodist had a somewhat indifferent season in terms of results until the success of their recent Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup campaign. However, it is now Cup final time, which will mean that whatever has happened earlier in the season there will now be a total re-focusing of efforts.
When it comes to winning Schools’ Cup games few teams have coaches in charge with more experience than Methodist’s Nick Wells and Stephen Lindsay.
Team captain, Matty Loane, is an all action player who leads his side by example. His try against Royal School Armagh in the quarter-final came at a crucial time and he will be aiming to lead his team to a big upset.