Portadown College will not under estimate Friends’ challenge

Friends School Lisburn captain Steven Kay with Portadown College captain Niall Davidson
Friends School Lisburn captain Steven Kay with Portadown College captain Niall Davidson

Friends’ School (Lisburn) v Portadown College

Friends’ School are prepared to accept the role of underdogs for Saturday morning’s home Danske Bank Schools’ Cup first round tie against Portadown (kick-off 10.30am).

It has been an indifferent season for the Lisburn boys. They have been blighted by injury problems, non-availabilities and a young squad of inexperienced players.

Their early season form saw them lose games narrowly, in four of the games just one score separated them from a successful outcome.

Then a series of injuries to key players set in and the results dipped even more! A number of successes in November showed what the team could achieve but then more injury woes set in.

The coaching team of Stephen Robinson, Norman Gamble and Graham Cloke are still not sure whether they will have a full squad from which to select for the tie.

Curtis Dundas, Ryan Hall and Kirk McGrady are talented players who are among a lot of Friends’ players who will be facing the pressure of their first cup campaign. They will look to the leadership qualities of players such as Stevie Kay, the captain, Thomas Boyde, who has deputised for Kay on a number of occasions, Bart Campbell, Adam Scoffield and James McGucken to help guide them through this encounter.

Portadown College have recorded a number of impressive results in the course of the current season. The stand out victory was the success against Rainey Endowed, earlier in the season when they won the Vinnie Doyle Memorial Cup.

Head Coach, Andrew Symington, realises he has an experienced squad to work with, especially in the back division. Six of the backline are going into their third season of Schools’ Cup rugby.

Team captain, Niall Davidson initially earned his reputation as a talented outhalf, but has moved out channel out and established an excellent centre partnership with Jason Lau. The Co Armagh boys will look for quality possession to allow these two players the opportunity to influence the game in a positive manner.

The pack can look to the experience of Jonathan Leckey, Robert Bleakney and Jacob McKeeman to assist in the provision of the quality possession the backline will crave.

Not only is Jacob a hard working number eight, he is also among the leading try scorer on the Portadown College team this season. His younger brother, Peter, is turning out to a be recognised talent in the backline and will, no doubt, tell his older sibling exactly what the backline requires from the pack!

The McKeeman brothers could have a major impact on the eventual outcome of this game.