The draw for the group stages of the All-Ireland Schoolboys Championships was made this week and sees St Columba’s draw what looks the toughest pool.
The Rathfarnham school will face reigning champions Banbridge Academy who have a series of stars available to return with Josh Moffett, Owen Magee, Matthew Bell and Peter Brown among the town’s first team stars on the club side. They are likely to be coming into the three-day competition off the back of Bann’s EHL trip to Antwerp when they begin their defence of the title on October 26 in Ashton.
Seven-time winners RBAI are also involved in Group 4 while Midleton – semi-finalists a year ago – make up the quartet. The Munster side have seen talisman Nick Burns move on but younger brother Alex is still around while there are three members of the province’s recently named U-18 side involved.
Leinster contenders St Andrews’ bid for a third title is powered by David Cole and there are plenty of emerging talents to make them contenders like Eric Foy, Mark Loughrey and Ben Campbell who recently made his YMCA first team debut.
The Booterstown academy faces Friends, Regent House and Bandon who have a quintet of Munster U-18s including skipper Scott Sullivan.
Wesley face the hosting school Ashton, Wallace HS and Sullivan Upper with a much changed side with Tom Samuel, David McCrea, Shane Madeley, Rob Burke, Rob Fitzgerald, Conor Quinn, Alan White, Andrew Malcolm, Matt Lewis and Andrew Roberts all moving on. Kirk Shimmins, Jonathon Roberts, Robbie Clarke, Neil Pelow and Luke Madeley are likely to be the players to step into the breach for a tricky pool.
In Group One, Leinster pair Sutton Park and Newpark have a very tough draw against Ulster giants Cookstown and Campbell College. Sutton have begun the new season in fine style with a big win over St Killian’s on the domestic front but will have their work cut out against Town whose centre-piece is Irish senior international Ian Sloan.
His drag-flicking alone makes him a serious threat but his creative instincts can help bring in other players while Matthew Rollins and Daniel Crooks provide a strong defensive line. Newpark are outsiders in the group with Andrew Ramsey the midfield schemer and Stefan Gallagher a class act between the posts.
The event runs for three days across Cork, played in Ashton, Bandon, Midleton, the Mardyke while Garryduff will host the final at 2.30pm on Friday, October 28.
All-Ireland Schoolboy Championships draw
Group 1: Cookstown, Campbell, Sutton Park, Newpark
Group 2: St Andrews, Friends, Bandon, Regent House
Group 3: Ashton, Wallace, Wesley, Sullivan Upper
Group 4: Banbridge, RBAI, Midleton, St Columbas
** For the full fixture schedule, click here