The Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup final on Monday afternoon will feature two of the leading lights in terms of schools’ rugby in Ulster this season.
Royal School, Armagh and Campbell College, Belfast meet in the “Blue Ribband” show down of the competition at the Kingspan Stadium. The Royal School Armagh team has experienced a very successful season in terms of results gained in the lead up to the start of their Cup campaign.
They added to their reputation with fine victories against Cambridge House Grammar School in the fourth round, the much fancied Wallace High School in the quarter-final and the current holders of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup, Royal Belfast Academical Institution, in the semi-final of the competition.
The Royal School team seems to have surprised a lot of observers with their current run of success, but it is unlikely they have surprised themselves! Losing only four senior players from last season’s squad the coaching staff has been able to call upon the success experienced by their Medallion team which won the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Medallion Shield in 2017.
The team is coached by Willie Faloon and Chris Parker, assisted by James McCall. If any sage wisdom or advice is required from a more experienced source then the grandfatherly figure of Kenny Hooks is never far away to assist in whatever way he can.
The preparation that went into the planning for the semi-final game was outstanding and the end result was well deserved.
The team is captained by Jack Treanor who has led by example throughout the season. Jack, alongside the experienced Nicholas Jennings and Zac Thompson, is one of the leading try scorers on the RS Armagh team. Zac Thompson is also the top points scorer who has had an outstanding season with his trusty boot. Matthew Reaney, as well as being a vital cog in the RS Armagh team, is Head Boy in the school.
Ryan O’Neill and Nicholas Jennings were members of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U18 Inter-Provincial winning team earlier in the season.
Nicolas, having scored the final try in the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-final game against Royal Belfast Academical Institution, would dearly love to emulate the success experienced by his father, John, who scored the winning try for the Royal School, Armagh team that won the Ulster Schools’ Cup in 1977.
Jonny Agnew, Jude Roberts and Charlie Worth are involved with the U17 Schools’ Development group while Josh King has been involved at U16 Ulster level. Charlie Worth has become established as a very positive player, who can play in a number of different positions.
His performance at scrum half in the semi-final attracted a lot of praise. The Campbell College defence will need to monitor all these players closely.
The Campbell College team returns to play in the final of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup for the second time in three seasons. The 2018 final will present them with the opportunity of winning the Schools’ Cup for the first time since 2011 when they defeated RBAI 18-11.
In their semi-final encounter against Methodist College they were made to work hard before emerging as well-deserved winners. The Campbell College team is coached by Neal Doak who has done a great job in developing the skills of all the players with whom he comes in contact. Neal is fortunate to have the experience of Brian Robinson, the youthful exuberance of Jonny Cupitt and, in John McKinney.
The Campbell College team is captained by John McKee who captained the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U18 team to Inter-Provincial success back in September.
John displayed great leadership skills during that campaign and he will be hoping to do so once again when he leads his team into this Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup final game.
John has some very talented players in the Campbell College squad. Oisin Kiernan and Jamie Maccartney were ever present with the Ulster U19 team earlier in the season.
Alongside John McKee, Ben Power featured with the Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ U18 team as did Jack Stinson. The successful return to play, post injury, of Ben is seen as a major boost for Campbell. As well as that the talents of players such as Oscar Yandell, Harry Owens, John Harrison and Rex Tinsley have been recognised by the Ulster Rugby Talent ID Department.
In Patrick McAlpine they have a young tight head prop whose performances in the course of the current season have also attracted the attention of the Ulster Rugby Talent ID Department.
However, the Campbell College top points scorer is the very talented Conor Rankin. Conor has displayed great game management skills this season and is one of the best place kickers playing in Ulster Schools’ rugby at the minute.
All of these talented Campbell College players, and especially Conor Rankin, shone with their effort and industry against the very talented Ballymena Academy team in the quarter-final as well as the Methodist College team in the semi-final.
The Royal School, Armagh team will need to be disciplined as any indiscretions inside their half will be severely punished by Conor.
Jamie MacCartney is the leading try scorer for the Campbell College team this season but Conor has not been far behind.