SCHOOLS’ CUP: Neighbouring Campbell College face off against Sullivan Upper

Campbell College captain James Nelson
Campbell College captain James Nelson

Two of the top seeded teams in this year’s Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup will meet in Saturday’s fourth round when Campbell College, Belfast host near neighbours from Sullivan Upper (Holywood) at Fox’s Field, Belfast (10.30am).

Campbell College coach, Brian Robinson will be hoping that he can guide his current squad back to the Kingspan Stadium on March 17 and go one step further than the squad he took there last season.

There is power and pace aplenty in the ranks of the squad and, with many of their players having experienced the disappointment of the loss in last year’s final, there is an overwhelming desire for success this year.

Full back, Ben Webb and backrow forward, Jamie Macartney, share the leading try scorer ratings with Tom O’Toole and Oscar Yandall not far behind. Oscar, Ben Power and Will Davis share the place kicking duties which ensures they are among the leading point’s scorers this season.

As well as their two Ulster U19 Inter-Provincial players Campbell can call upon the services of six Ulster Schools’ U18 players in Matthew Crowther, who is also Head Boy of the school, John McKee, Oisin Kernan, Jamie Macartney, Ben Webb and Oscar Yandall. Emerging talents such as Harry Owens, Sam Robinson, Lucas Yandall, brother of Oscar, and Jack Stinson are other Campbell College players the Sullivan Upper team will need to monitor carefully.

Campbell have lost only three games this season, but they are without captain James Nelson, who is recovering from a collar-bone injury.

Sullivan Upper have gone through a recent period of transition in terms of the staff involved with the team as coaches. Adam Craig is in his first full season as Head Coach with Chris Henderson coming on board to assist. Mike Rodgers has come back in to the coaching set-up in a technical and advisory role. His knowledge and understanding of the schoolboy game should prove invaluable to the coaching staff who have also the experienced hand of Stephen Finlay to call upon as team manager.

Sullivan captain, Ruairi Meharg, is a son of a former Ireland U20 winger, Shame Meharg. He has led his team with great distinction in the course of the current season. He will realise that their visit to Campbell will test severely the Cup credentials of his side.

Meharg will let the entire Sullivan squad know what he will bring to the occasion and exactly what he expects of his team mates to bring too.

Alongside his half back partner and team Vice-Captain, Matty Moran, who is Head Boy in the school, Meharg brings great individual positional skills as well as well-honed game management and leadership skills.

Sullivan’s season started well with some convincing victories all of which showed the potential the team had for a good run in the Schools’ Cup. However, due to injuries and cancelled fixtures the second half of the season has been inconsistent in terms of performances due to some 27 players having featured for the team.

This has presented added responsibilities for the senior members of the squad to handle with players such as Michael Houston and Jules Storey stepping up to the mark. Prop, James Butt, has worked hard this year to become a cornerstone of the pack having captained the Sullivan thirds last year. He forms a dynamic front row trio with hooker Shaun Tyler and fellow prop, Charlie Shannon. Shaun, with winger Andrew McConnell, is a rising star in GAA having played football at county level in that code. Credit must go to Jamie Thallon who, in spite of being in Year 12, has maintained his place in the second row throughout the season.

The backrow, which has been consistently disrupted by injuries, includes live wires Charlie Gregg and Adam McKenna who are complimented by Ulster RDS member, Stephen Moore. The exciting back line includes Meharg, Johnny MacCrossan and emerging talent, Connor McKee. Andrew Weir, whose ability to play outhalf or centre has been well utilised this year, is complimented by the talented Rory Kirkpatrick who has huge potential in the game of rugby.