Cork beckons for the five-pronged Leinster challenge on the All-Ireland schoolboys championships that gets underway on Wednesday with three Dublin outfits harbouring strong hopes of glory.
Reigning champions St Andrew’s, from Booterstown, are perhaps best-placed as they look to win an incredible fifth title in sixth years.
For Ivan Ovington’s side, Irish senior international Ben Walker produced a virtuoso performance for the school in the decider last year in Dublin, carving out the winning goal in the closing minutes to beat Banbridge.
Since then, the midfielder has gone on to play for the international team at the age of 17 and played in the senior European Championships.
He will be flanked by Cian Murphy and Rian McDonald with Riley Marchant Matteo Romoli in the sweeper role. That quartet lined out for Leinster’s Under-18s in the interpro winning side.
Their big challenge in the initial group stage will come from Lisburn’s Sullivan Upper who have plenty of Ulster representatives including Tom Robson, Harry and Matthew Morris, Callum Carson and Irish Under-18 Fergus Gibson.
Their meeting will be one of the highlights of the opening group stages with Waterford’s Newtown School – in just their second appearance in a decade – and Belfast’s Campbell College also in the group.
Ballinteer’s Wesley College, captained by Irish U-18 player Matthew Walker, are seeking their first title since 2009 having lost four finals in the intervening years. Their history has regularly been intertwined with Banbridge Academy and, having been grouped together, one of the big names will fall before the playoff stages.
Wesley have star quality in Leinster players Rob McCollum, Josh Greaney, Hugo Burns and Ben O’Grady while Bann have a strong keeper, Scott Dale, backing up a team powered by Mark Barlow.
Bann won their semi-final meeting a year ago and also won in the final in 2015 so Wes have something to prove. Bangor and King’s Hospital are the other side in Pool B.
Rathgar’s High School agonisingly missed out on a first-ever semi-final spot last year at the hands of Banbridge but they will be quietly confident of making the breakthrough.
They have maturity in the likes of Alex Flynn, Alex O’Regan and Peter Lynch while Ali Empey, Jake Pillow and Harry Lynch were in the Leinster Under-18s.
Wallace HS are their main group rival along with a tough Kilkenny outfit – who have been gaining plenty of senior experience with the city’s club side with Evin McClure a leader – and Donegal’s Royal & Prior.
Pool D is where the home hopes lie with Ashton the top seed, lining out against Limerick’s Villiers and Ulster sides RBAI and Friends HS.
Pool A: Wesley, King’s Hospital, Bangor, Banbridge Academy
Pool B: St Andrew’s, Newtown, Campbell College, Sullivan Upper
Pool C: High School, Kilkenny College, Royal & Prior, Wallace HS
Pool D: Ashton, Villiers, RBAI, Friends
Bandon: St Andrew’s v Newtown, 1.30pm; Wesley v King’s Hospital, 3.30pm
Ashton: Ashton v Villiers, 1.30pm; High School v Kilkenny, 3.30pm
Midleton: RBAI v Friends, 1.30pm; Bangor v Babridge, 3.30pm
Garryduff: Campbell v Sullivan, 1.30pm; Royal & Prior v Wallace, 3.30pm
Bandon: Newtown v Sullivan, 10am; Wallace v Kilkenny, 11.30am; Newtown v Campbell, 2.15pm; Wallace v High School, 3.45pm
Ashton: Ashton v RBAI, 10am; Kings Hospital v Banbridge, 11.30am; Ashton v Friends, 2.15pm; Kilkenny v Royal & Prior, 3.45pm
Midleton: Villiers v Friends, 10am; Wesley v Bangor, 11.30am; Villiers v RBAI, 2.15pm; Bangor v Kings Hospital, 3.45pm
Garryduff: St Andrew’s v Campbell, 10am; High School v Royal & Prior, 11.30am; St Andrew’s v Sullivan, 2.15pm; Banbridge v Wesley, 3.45pm
Bandon: Semi-final, 9.30am
Midleton: Semi-final, 9.30am
Garryduff: Final, 2.30pm