Defeated coach tells Dalriada young guns: You can win it!
DALRIADA'S young guns go into the fourth round of the Schools' Cup next week with words of encouragement ringing in their ears from an unlikely source.
Having watched his side outplayed by under-dogs Dalriada on Saturday, Bangor Grammar coach David Kennedy called the opposition over at the final whistle and told them: "You can win this competition".
The remarkable gesture followed the Ballymoney school's excellent 10-0 victory over the much-fancied County Down outfit, securing Dalriada's place in the fourth round of the prestigious competition for the first time in 17 years.
Next up for the local lads is a daunting trip to the mighty Campbell College, but having kept Bangor at bay at the weekend, confidence is high in the Dalriada camp.
Dalriada's John Devlin, said: "In all my time here that was one of the best cup games ever played.
"It was a great atmosphere and a great game.
"We were excellent throughout the team. We were solid in defence and Bangor never looked like they were going to score."
Asked if Dalriada had what it takes to go all the way in the competition, John replied that no-one at the school was getting ahead of themselves just yet.
"There are a lot of tough teams out there but we have a confident bunch of lads here," he said.
"We have a lot of strong elements to our game and we are extremely difficult to break down at the minute.
"We have talented individuals and intelligent individuals.
"We will go to Campbell with confidence. It is one of the big, big grounds of schools rugby but we will give it a shot.
"We won't go in as favourites but we are quietly confident."
Asked about Kennedy's words of encouragement to the Ballymoney boys, John said: "I know him very well and he was gutted.
"He puts his life and soul into rugby and was very gracious in defeat."
Bangor travelled to Ballymoney having suffered only one defeat this season.
Both teams entered the arena to a great atmosphere on both touchlines as both sets of supporters greeted the players with rousing renditions of their school songs.
Bangor had the first opportunity for points when the referee gave a penalty against the Ballymoney boys for an infringement at the breakdown. The pressure of the game seemed to get to the usually reliable Bangor Grammar School kicker, Stuart McCloskey, who scuffed his penalty attempt and lost the opportunity to put his team into the lead.
Dalriada then got the first and only try of the match through their young Year 12 winger, Rhys McAuley.
From a well struck 'Garryowen' kick, McAuley put heavy pressure on his opposite number. The Bangor defence fumbled the ball for the winger to hack through and win the chase to get the touchdown. Dalriada full back, Lee Ballentine slotted the conversion to put Dalriada 7-0 ahead.
The start of the second half saw Dalriada begin to dominate proceedings.
Both sides were attempting to move the ball to their wingers but it was the home team which looked more dangerous.
Outhalf, Cormac McCartney was controlling the possession which enabled his fellow backs, Ben Henderson and Jonny McLaughlin to run some great lines. The Dalriada forwards got in on the act as well with David Campbell and Sam Kyle causing problems for the Bangor defence with the ball in hand.
Dalriada finally increased their lead midway through the second half when McCartney hit a 35 metre drop goal. It seemed like an age until the kick eventually split the uprights and crossed the bar. This successful kick put the Dalriada team 10 points ahead.
Good work from the Bangor pack took play into the Dalriada half and forced the home team into giving away a penalty. Once again McCloskey was unsuccessful with his kick.
The Ballymoney side now had a firm grip on the game. Their defence, with Ben Henderson and Roger Bonnar leading the way, was well organised and denied the Bangor team any quality ball with which they could work.
Ballentine came close to scoring another try when he broke through the Seasiders defence, but he knocked on with the line at his mercy. Henderson also might have had a try but for a midfield crossing offence.
Bangor contributed much to the game but on the day lost out to the better team.
Dalriada travel to Campbell College on Saturday 6 February.
Holders and favourites Methodist College host RS Armagh.