Banbridge Academy are far from certain winners in this weekend’s Danske Bank Schools’ Cup opener.
That’s the warning from coach Brian Leslie. His side thrashed Antrim Grammar 45-0 at home in the first round last season and with an identical draw this time round, they could be seen as the favourites.
However, Leslie doesn’t think it’s that simple.
“We beat them quite comfortably last year but I think it’s going to be a lot closer this time. It has the makings of a tight game,” he said.
“They have one guy in the Ulster Schools’ squad and they seem to have a good team there. They’ve picked up a few good results while we’ve had a tough season so far. We’ve had a few bad results.
“The boys have kept on training well though. We had them in for a few training sessions over Christmas and we played Lurgan College in a training game. Then we were beaten 17-7 by Rainey on Saturday but they have had a really good season. We played some very good rugby.
“We’re just looking at this game against Antrim. We’ll see what we can do and then we’ll take it from there.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries so far this year but we’re starting to get people back now. Ideally, it would have been nice to have another couple of weeks but we’re in as good a shape as we can be,”
One injured player the Academy won’t welcome back is their skipper Michael McGaffin. He’s out with a broken nose, picked up over the Christmas period.
“He’ll miss the first round game at least,” said Leslie. “If we can make it through, hopefully he can make it back in time for the second round.”
And without his captain, Leslie is banking on a spirited display from his side to see them safely through to round two.
He said: “We haven’t got any Ulster players this year so it’s all very much a team ethos. We have a relatively young side but we’re not building for next year or anything like that.
“We’ll be picking our best 15 and going out there to do all we can to go through. We have to do justice to our Upper Sixth boys.
“It’s great to get a home tie. Hopefully we can get a good crowd down and we can make it a good day for the boys.”
This Saturday’s game will kick off at the school’s top pitch at 10.30am.