SCHOOLS’ CUP: Ballyclare set for Down test

Jonny Darling will skipper Ballyclare High's First XV in the Schools' Cup this year.
Jonny Darling will skipper Ballyclare High's First XV in the Schools' Cup this year.

BALLYCLARE High’s First XV is gearing up for another Schools’ Cup adventure which they hope will take them all the way to Ravenhill for the second year in a row.

Last year’s beaten finalists - one of eight seeded teams - get their campaign under way this weekend at the fourth-round stage with a trip to Down High.

A little under 12 months ago pupils at the Rashee Road school were gripped by rugby fever as their team locked horns with big-hitting Methodist College in the showpiece match. The Belfast boys proved too strong for coach Dan Soper’s charges on the day, but a real sense of pride swept through the home of Ulster Rugby as swarms of fans flocked to cheer on the lads in red and navy.

This year’s skipper, Johnny Darling, played in the 2012 final. He now has the privilege of leading the side and he and his team-mates will take nothing for granted as they seek victory in Downpatrick on Saturday.

Speaking to the Times, coach Soper said: “It’s going to be a tough fixture. Most people looking at the [fourth-round] draw at face value will think that it’s good that we have avoided any the top-eight teams in our opener. But, going to Downpatrick is as tough as it gets. We learnt that two years ago at the same stage of the competition when we needed a last-minute try to get through. We will have to play very well to progress.”

Also in action this weekend is Belfast High School, who swept aside RS Dungannon in a third-round replay with a blistering 39-0 win.

Tries from Joel McBride, Adam White (two), Matthew Connolly (two), Darren Scott and a Robbie Reid penalty in the midweek match secured their passage to the next stage when a trip Bangor Grammar awaits.

Report by John Gillespie | Twitter: @Times_Sport