Carrickfergus GS v Lurgan College
Carrick have just returned from a training camp in Portugal in their build up to Saturday’s first round Danske Bank Schools’ Cup tie against Lurgan College (kick-off 10.30am).
Carrick coaches, Neal Kennedy and Stephen Martin, have moulded a talented group of players into a team that a number of opposition teams have found difficult to defeat this season.
Captained by Jake Porter, who forms a prolific try scoring centre partnership with International Schoolboy Athlete, Christian Robinson, Carrick have performed to a high standard throughout the season.
Injuries to key players, in the latter stages of the first term, impacted seriously on results but recent performances seem to suggest they are hitting top form at just the right time.
Adan Urquhart, Tom Gilpin, an Ulster Schools’ U17 Development Squad member, Scott Henderson and the Berry twins, Reece and Kris, bring experience to a pack of forwards that is efficient at set piece time and effective at the breakdown.
Carrick’s half back pairing of Michael Black and David Carse has established a great understanding and will be asked to keep their pack on the front foot throughout the game.
The back three trio of Mark Ellison, Conor Schirk and Fionn Mc Cormack love to get the ball in hand to test the opposition defence. If Carrick get sufficient quality possession the Lurgan defence will need to be well-organised.
However, Lurgan already have a psychological edge on Carrick having defeated them already this season and travel as slight favourites to progress.
Team coach, Geoff Caldwell, has brought Trevor Carruthers on board as his assistant. He has brought experience, dedication and knowledge to his role. He has developed a high degree of self-belief in the Lurgan back division and the team is reaping the rewards.
Ulster Branch Strength and Conditioning coach, Paul Heasley, has been brought in to the school to assist the players in developing that aspect of their game. This appointment seems to be paying dividends as well.
Team captain, Matthew Lairds leads from the number eight position and can call upon the experience of fellow forwards such as Ulster Schools’ U17 Development squad member, Harry Simpson, Mark Montgomery, Nathan Moffett, Thomas Neill, Ben McAllister and Matthew Turner. Turner will look to his dynamic pack to control the scrums, lines-out, as well as the breakdown area, to supply his backs with the quality possession they require. Scott Wilson and Jonny Hunter are experienced attacking half backs and the latter can rely on his brother, Jamie, playing in the centre, to assist him when required.
The Hunter brothers have great rugby DNA being the grandsons of former Ulster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions player, Raymond.
Jamie Patterson has settled well into his new role as fullback and brings an attacking prowess to the position.