Antrim Grammar in Schools’ Cup groove ahead of Banbridge trip

Banbridge Academy captain Matthew Bell with Antrim Grammar captain Mathew Dunne
Banbridge Academy captain Matthew Bell with Antrim Grammar captain Mathew Dunne

Banbridge Academy v Antrim Grammar

Antrim Grammar will travel to play Banbridge Academy (kick-off 10.30am) on Saturday morning boosted by their pre Christmas preliminary Danske Bank Schools’ Cup win over Strabane Academy.

And while Banbridge will start as favourites, Antrim must not be under-estimated.

Their coaching staff, Michael Ferguson, John Burns and Richard Cullen, know they have some talented players available for this game.

None more so than their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U17 squad member, JJ McKee. JJ has been a rock in the Antrim Grammar School pack all season.

He gets great support from players such as the Mawhinney brothers, James and Robert, at prop, alongside the hard working backrow trio of Jacob McCollum, Daniel McGrandles and team captain, Matthew Dunne.

In the Antrim back division, NCU U17 cricketer, Sam Gordon, provides good game management and decision making skills while Adam Johnston has developed an eagle eye for the opposition try line throughout the season.

Banbridge team have had a mixed season, in terms of results, to date. They have recorded some excellent wins against RS Armagh, Portora Royal and RS Dungannon.

They have picked up one Cup already this season when they won a tournament involving three schools from the Mid Ulster area. This success will have given squad

confidence.

Team coaches, Brian Leslie and Roy Stevenson know they have a good mixture of youth and experience to hand as they prepare for this game. Unfortunately, their Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ second row forward, Richard McNeill, will not be available as he is currently in rehab following a knee injury.

However, in players such as Daniel McElderry, Jay Pinion, Ben Carson, Shane Honeyford and Rhys Mackey, the Banbridge team has experience in their back division. Add in the emerging talents of Ulster U16 Development scrum half, Jordan Mount, featuring on the wing, and the finishing power of fellow winger, Michael McGaffin, the Banbridge back line has a lot of quality in the ranks.

These players will look to the experience in their pack, provided by players such as Ben Nixon, Stephen Rompante, Richard McNeill and captain, Matthew Bell, to provide the quality possession they need to enable them to ask questions of the Antrim defence.