Dalriada School coach Rab Gregg is expecting a tough outing this weekend as his charges aim to bounce back from their Schools’ Cup exit and force their way into the semi-finals of the Schools’ Bowl.
Last season the Ballymoney lads claimed the Danske Bank Shield and Dalriada are determined that this year’s brood will match that haul of silverware despite an exodus of senior players from the panel.
The school take on Grosvenor Grammar School on Saturday - a team they beat in their second game of the season - and for their coach a home draw will be key.
“A home draw in any schools competition is key,” he told the Times. “That is just the nature of schoolboy rugby. I really think that playing away to Bangor Grammar in the cup had a huge impact on the outcome of that game.
“Nevertheless, we know that we will get a good game from Grosvenor. Everyone in the Bowl is very much at a similar level and that is what’s great about this setup - it provides very meaningful competition, but we will go into the game reasonably confident. We are definitely in with a shout of progressing.”
Dalriada had been hit with a number of injuries to key men in the build up to their cup showdown against Bangor. The team captain, Michael Finnerty, remains a concern as does the talented Matthew Christie. The duo are two of just four Upper Sixth pupils on the team.
“Michael is being held together with sticky tape at the moment while Matthew is struggling with his shoulder. We’ll just have to wait on see on both. Like Grosvenor, we have ten or twelve Fifth Years in our team at the moment. We are building and improving game by game. We have high hopes for this team over the next few years.”
This development will be aided by the superb progress of the Medallion XV who take on Ballyclare High School in the Medallion Shield at some point this week.
“We are fairly confident and expect the boys to come through that one,” said Gregg.
“They have had a fantastic season so far and if they win it all comes down to the draw then.”