FOR many of the young men who will put their bodies on the line for Rainey Endowed on Saturday, the Northern Bank Ulster Schools Cup will be the pinnacle of their rugby careers.
The Schools Cup brings with it much fervour and excitement. The entire town descends on the school playing fields hoping for a home win. A little different from the standard 1st XV home fixtures where Mums, Dads and dogs patrol the touchline. Saturday can be make or break moment for these young men. All the hard work put in on the training field was for this special moment.
Carrickfergus Grammar School stand between Rainey and a place in the third round of the Northern Bank Schools Cup. It promises to be a thrilling contest.
Rainey coach Chris Campbell has been pleased with preparations ahead of the big tie and admitted it has been a testing year for the Magherafelt side.
“Our form has been reasonable this season. We have won six out of fifteen fixtures. We have been unlucky with regards to injury and we are slowly getting back to a fully fit panel and everyone is looking forward to Saturday.”
Campbell has set his charges the task of getting to round four of the competition. However, they are not disregarding the fact that they are in for a tough encounter on Saturday.
“We were actually due to play Carrick the week after the draw was made. Both coaches agreed to cancel the fixture as neither of us wanted to show our hand ahead of the cup. We have done our homework on them. They are big and strong up front. They have a strong pack and will look to play through them. We are a relatively small side and we prefer to play a more expansive style of rugby.”
In the build up to the Schools Cup fixture, the Rainey side have been training five times a week. Two sessions in the gym and three sessions on the pitch.
Rainey will look to a number of key players on Saturday to help overcome the Carrick challenge. Campbell pinpoints the threat of abrasive backrow forwards such as captain Thomas Booth and Michael Dawson as key to their hopes of victory.
“There is no doubt about it, the strengths are in our backrow and back line. We have a young and pacy backline, who like to get the ball in hand. We have a young side who are up for the challenge. Many of this side are eligible again next year, so the future is bright at the school.”
Campbell, who won the School Cup with Rainey in 1983, admitted that he has a number of selection issues ahead of the tie.
“We have a few lads returning from injury and there are going to be a number of tricky selection issues. All year we have struggled with injury but slowly we are getting back to a full panel. It should be a cracking game of rugby and everyone at the school is looking forward to it.”