Wesley College face a really tough group in the All-Ireland Schoolboys draw as they were paired with four-time champions Banbridge Academy, five time winners RBAI as well as Midleton College.
It is the definite group to watch as the Ballinteer school, finalists last season, look to try and bounce back after a chastening defeat in the 2013 edition decider.
They have a number of key men still around with striker Stu Ronan, who already has notched three goals in senior club action this term, likely to be their talisman up front.
Daragh Walsh, part of the Irish Under-21 setup who won gold at the European Junior Trophy in the summer, will underpin their midfield while Irish Under-18 Ben McCrea will organise the defence.
With Dylan Cullen, Andy Keane and David Mawhinney among those around for another shot at the competition, they will certainly aim to be in the mix. But Banbridge have been the standard bearers at this level in the past five years having won a wealth of schools trophies in Ulster.
St Andrew’s remain among the favourites for three in-a-row. They are in a group that also features Regent House, qualifiers St Columba’s and Sullivan Upper. They have already beaten west Cork side Bandon 5-0 in the Whiteside trophy and Wesley 5-3 as well as storming past High School (5-2) and King’s Hospital (7-0) in the Leinster league.
Jazze Henry and David Nolan are rapidly establishing themselves as key players for their club, Monkstown, with whom they travel to the Euro Hockey League – hockey’s equivalent of the Champions League – in Barcelona this week to take on Belgian and French opposition.
Sutton Park have a tricky group with two of Ulster’s stronger schools – Friends and Campbell College – involved as well as Munster leaders Ashton.
Mount Temple, meanwhile, are up against 2013 semi-finalists Wallace, Bandon and either Portadown and Royal & Prior from Donegal who will playoff for the 16th slot in the competition.
Irish Schools Draw (Cork, October 22 to 24)
Group A: Wallace, Bandon, Mount Temple, Portadown or Royal &Prior
Group B: Banbridge Academy, Wesley, RBAI, Midleton
Group C: St Andrews, Regent, Sullivan, St Columba’s
Group D: Friends, Ashton, Campbell, Sutton Park.