With the first of our monthly winners being crowned after last week’s results (well done Mr Steele) this week sees not only at new set of predictions but a new chance to be ‘Manager of the Month’. So, let’s take a look at what match-ups await us this weekend:
Ballyclare HS v Bangor GS
While Ballyclare defeated Dungannon in the previous round, as many expected, they didn’t do so by the sort of margin their supporters would have hoped for. Coming into this fixture with a laboured win against a squad on the up may well spell problems for the home side, and with Bangor GS feeding off confidence from recent results – wins against Dalriada and Down HS, a draw against Wallace and a close defeat by RBAI – as well as the return from injury for many of their players, I think the visitors will end with a narrow victory over their seeded opponents.
MY PICK: Bangor GS
Ballymena Academy v Wallace HS
Given the relative closeness and current strength of these two sides it may be just as useful to determine the outcome from a coin-toss as from pure reasoning. In a very recent friendly Wallace won the fixture 19-10, but Ballymena have since beaten Methody to give their confidence a huge boost and will have worked on cutting out the mistakes that lost them that particular game; on the other hand Wallace will have memories of an opportunity missed last year to spur them on…this is pure gut; I’m going with the home side. (PS the coin landed on its edge; is that a draw?)
MY PICK: Ballymena Academy
Down HS v BRA
While Grosvenor may have looked better on paper, it was BRA who won, and comfortably so, in the previous round. It was a prediction that I called incorrectly and reflecting upon it I forgot about one major factor: Brian McLaughlin. Now director of rugby at BRA, he led RBAI to a number of Cup victories back in the early 2000s and that spirit looks like it has found its way to Roughfort. Even better for the Belfast side is that they have now been drawn against Down HS who have suffered a straight run of losses and look to have lost some of their early season confidence.
MY PICK: BRA
Foyle College v Dalriada
Along with Friends’ SL, Foyle College are one of the only two remaining teams from Round 1 to feature at this stage and they’ll have a tough task getting any further as they face a team who have only suffered two defeats all season. They may cause Dalriada some problems, as they did recently against the decent opposition of Ballyclare and Portora, but equally as likely is that they suffer a rerun of this season’s friendly against the same opponents when they lost 38 points to 12; either way, it looks like the final outcome will be a victory and quarterfinal spot for Dalriada.
MY PICK: Dalriada
Friends’ SL v Campbell College
The second of our Round 1 entrants makes an appearance in this game, but, like its counterpart above, will more than likely be making a quick exit stage-left. Campbell College are currently on a winning streak of six with their victims as follows: Bangor, RBAI, Sullivan, Methody, Ballymena and BRA. That’s the sort of form that wins you a championship never mind seeing you through to a quarterfinal.
MY PICK: Campbell College
Methodist College v Rainey ES
To claim that Methody have had a terrible year so far will not be met with much opposition (even especially from their supporters!), although that assessment may be somewhat harsh as on three separate occasions defeats were close to being wins, albeit for two points. Not that any of that really matters now anyway, as MCB in the Cup are a completely different prospect than in friendly games. Rainey will have more belief than they would have ever had in previous years, but, unless they have a barnstorming start – and even then – the ‘fear’ of Methody in the Cup will probably prove too much for a team who struggled against the weaker RS Armagh in the previous round.
MY PICK: Methodist College
RBAI v Coleraine GS
Coleraine will be out for revenge in this repeat – name changes aside – of last year’s first semifinal as they look to make amends for a contentious try scored late in that game which eventually allowed the Belfast team to go through and lift the Cup. To do so will be a tough ask, but after a poor start to the season they now seem to have momentum with a run of straight wins stretching back to November against the likes of Methody, BRA & Ballyclare. However, similar to above, we are dealing with RBAI at home in a Cup game rather than a friendly and with the added incentive of defending their title; Coach Soper knows how to win a Cup now, so you can be sure he’ll have a decent plan for winning another.
MY PICK: RBAI
Regent House v Sullivan Upper
If there has ever been a team in recent years to personify the expression ‘Cup team’ Regent House are probably it; their trademark has become an inconsistent early season followed by at least a couple of surprising performances in the Cup. Now the same could happen again as an unproved Sullivan side make the brief trip from Holywood carrying with them a long list of injuries which has affected the team throughout the season. I think Regent will just about make it over the line in this one but, as with their previous Cup fixture, only just.
MY PICK: Regent House
Have a better idea of what to go for now? Get your entry in HERE before the deadline of 10.00am Saturday 6th February