Tasmanian Shield the prize for five-pronged Leinster challenge

The five-pronged Leinster challenge for the Tasmanian Shield are in their final countdown as they look forward to next week’s All-Ireland Schoolboys competition in Belfast.

The province dominated the tournament a year ago with St Andrew’s Booterstown, Wesley College and High School all reaching the semi-finals. The Saints went on to win the final in Cork against Wesley on strokes.

St Andrew’s celebrate their 2017 success. Pic: Rob Micallef

The reigning champions comfortably negotiated the qualifiers earlier this month, a strange position for a school that have won five of the last six tournaments.

Their form lagged in the Leinster league last year and losses to High School and Newpark meant they finished outside the top three in the province, missing automatic qualification for this term’s main event.

Nonetheless, it is difficult to discount them as major challengers and with seven Under-18 interprovincial players in their line-up, they have plenty of quality.

Cian Murphy has already lined out in 2018 for the Irish Under-21 side; Riley Marchant scored in last year’s final while Jamie Pullen – should he get over a slight injury – was one of the star men in midfield.

The main challenge for them in Group C for the one semi-final place on offer looks to be Lisburn side Wallace HS. They scored 34 times in three qualifier games.

Fellow Ulster qualifiers RBAI and Cork’s Ashton – third place in Munster – complete the group with Kevin O’Dea the latter’s key player.

Wesley are in the potential group of death with two former winners and pre-qualified Ulster schools, Banbridge Academy and Bangor, with Kilkenny the outsiders.

Bann’s Rowe brothers, goalkeeper Scott Dale and vice captain Mark Barlow give them plenty of options around the park. Wesley’s side has plenty of strong points, too, with Josh Greaney leading the line, Euan Mackay in goal and Ben O’Grady in defence providing a drag-flick option.

High School will fancy their chances of reaching a second successive semi-final from Group B. They have seen a number of their key players graduate but they have plenty of Irish underage players in their line-up like Harry Lynch in midfield and ace goal-getters Evan Jennings and Ali Empey up front.

Calum Adair and Ross Howard helping to pull the strings and Ben Whelan in goal, vying with Ben Cripps for the number one spot.

Newpark, Regent House and a fancied Sullivan Upper are their opposition. Sullivan are coached by Irish international Callum Robson, a recent graduate, and will have Harry Morris, Paddy Crookshanks and Patrick Rose among their leading lights.

Group D features Limerick’s Villiers, Waterford’s Newtown, Lisburn’s Friends and Belfast’s Methody. All four will be spying this group as an inviting one, missing most of the perennial semi-finalists in the competition.

The event runs from October 24th to 26th with matches spilt across Queen’s, Shaw’s Bridge and Deramore Park in south Belfast.

Group A: Banbridge Academy, Wesley College, Kilkenny College, Bangor GS.
Group B: High School, Newpark Comprehensive, Regent House, Sullivan Upper
Group C: Ashton School, RBAI, St. Andrew’s College, Wallace HS
Group D: Friends School, MCB, Newtown School, Villiers School


Wednesday 24th October
Deramore Shaw’s Bridge QUB 1 QUB 2
1.45pm MCB v Friends’ RBAI v Wallace Banbridge v Bangor Sullivan Upper v Regent House
3.30pm Newtown v Villiers St Andrew’s v Ashton Wesley v Kilkenny Newpark v The High School


Thursday 25th October
Deramore Shaw’s Bridge QUB 1 QUB 2
9.45am Newtown v MCB Regent v The High School Newpark v Sullivan Villiers v Friends’
11.15am Wallace HS v Ashton RBAI v St Andrew’s Kilkenny v Banbridge Bangor v Wesley
2.00pm MCB v Villiers The High School v Sullivan Newpark v Regent Friends’ v Newtown
3.30pm Bangor v Kilkenny RBAI v Ashton Banbridge v Wesley St Andrew’s v Wallace


Friday 26th October
Shaw’s Bridge QUB 1
9.30am Semi-Final 1 Semi-Final 2
2.30pm Final

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