Saturday double aim for Mike Orchin-McKeever

It’s a normal Saturday for Mike Orchin-McKeever in the sense that he will have two rugby matches to coach: a school’s game in the morning and a club game later in the day.

By Sports Desk
Friday, 28th January 2022, 5:47 pm
Updated Friday, 28th January 2022, 5:48 pm

What makes it slightly different this week is the importance of both games.

In the morning McKeever’s Ballyclare High School face joint holders Royal School Armagh for a place in the Schools’ Cup last eight.

Then at 5.30pm Ballyclare will run out at Kingspan Stadium bidding to win the All Ireland Junior Cup for the first time in the club’s history as they face Ulster rivals Clogher Valley.

“It’s easy for me to say it is a normal Saturday which it is regarding having two fixtures - school and club - but they are just a bit more meaningful when the focus of the competition comes into it,” he said.

“The morning will be a nice focus with the school group then with the later kick off I’ll get a couple of hours off in the afternoon for a change.

“It a huge occasion and I’m really excited about it for the players, the supporters and trying to build a positive rugby experience for more people to get involved in the game in the local area.”

The former Schools’ Cup winning centre is delighted the final is at Kingspan Stadium.

“It is fantastic by all the people in the background to make this happen,” he said.

“It still would have been exciting to play it at any club in Ulster but to get it at Kingspan... it’s a great opportunity for the players and for their families and supporters to watch the amateur game in the professional environment.”

Clogher Valley have won 18 out of 19 games in all competitions this season - including two victories over Ballyclare - and have won their last 12 games.

In 2014 they came agonisingly close to winning the All Junior Cup but lost 10-9 in the final to Enniscorthy.

Eight of that side will be involved and coach Stephen Bothwell is hoping to make amends for the disappointment eight years ago.

“It would be huge to be crowned champions,” he said. “There are only two other Ulster clubs that have won it. It should be a great occasion and there is a real determination to bring the cup back to the Valley.”