The rising clutch of stars in Ulster Rugby lended their voice of support to the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup yesterday as the 2018-19 competitions were launched.
Kingspan Stadium - the venue for the finals of the Senior Schools’ Cup, Medallion Shield, High Schools’ Trophy and Girls’ School Cup - hosted the launch which was attended by coaches and players from the competing schools.
Michael Lowry, a Schools’ Cup winner with RBAI, Angus Kernohan (Ballymena Academy) and Tommy O’Toole (Campbell College) were on hand to share their experiences of Schools’ Cup campaigns to an attentive audience.
The Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy trio have made swift progress on their professional careers having made their debuts on the Ulster Senior side.
The draw for the opening two rounds of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup, the world’s second-oldest rugby competition, took place in front of the 1st XV captains from each of the 33 participating schools.
Last season, John McKee led Campbell College to a 19-13 final victory over Royal School Armagh, securing a first title since 2011 for Campbell, and their 24th outright competition success.
First won by the Armagh school back in 1876, the Schools’ Cup has been competed for every year since, with 17 different schools having collected the famous cup, while Methodist College sit on top of the roll of honour with 35 outright titles.
Ulster Branch President Stephen Elliott, said: “The Boys Schools’ Cup, Girls Schools’ Cup and all the other subsidiary competitions are an important part of the Ulster Rugby calendar, and are eagerly awaited by all players, coaches, families and supporters alike.
“It is with great anticipation that, at this time of year, preparations are well underway and schools are preparing to hear who they will be drawn against.
“While there can only be one winner, I wish all players and teams the best of luck and hope they make the most of their schools rugby experiences.
“We would like to once again thank Danske Bank, whose name has become synonymous with Schools’ Rugby, for their continued support and we look to working with them during another exciting season of schools’ rugby.”
Richard Caldwell, Managing Director of Personal Banking and Small Business at Danske Bank added: “Supporting the Schools’ Cup has always been, and continues to be, a central part of our support for local communities, alongside our other youth partnerships with Ulster Schools’ GAA and the Northern Ireland Schools Football Association.
“This is our fourteenth year to support the Ulster Schools’ Cup and in this time we have seen how the competition plays an important role in developing the skills and talent of local young players, especially when we see players like Jacob Stockdale come through the ranks of Schools’ Cup rugby and go on to play for Ulster and Ireland.
“We wish all the teams competing in this year’s competition the best of luck for the months’ ahead and are already looking forward to getting back to Kingspan Stadium for the final on March 18.”
DANSKE BANK ULSTER SCHOOLS’ CUP
First Round Draw:
Antrim Grammar v Carrickfergus Grammar
Strabane Academy v Wellington College
Those ties are to be played on December 15.
Second Round Draw:
Limavady Grammar v Larne Grammar; Grosvenor Grammar v Friends’ School; Cambridge House v Banbridge Academy; Lurgan College v Foyle College; Dromore HS v Regent House; Antrim / Carrickfergus v Down HS
Belfast HS v Strabane / Wellington
Ties to be played on Saturday, January 12, 2019.
The seven winners from Round Two will be joined in the Round 3 draw by the next seeded sides, with the top seeds joining in Round 4.