FOYLE & Londonderry Rugby First XV has progressed to the semi-final of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools Bowl.
They will face Omagh Academy in their last four tie.
To give me a greater insight into the preparations of the side, Sentinel Sport caught up with blindside flanker Patrick Leeson.
On asking Patrick about how the team’s preparations have been going he states that the team train three times a week.
“Every Thursday the team are put through their paces in a non contact session on a state of the art 3G surface at St Mary’s College. They focus on set piece moves, handling and defensive organisaton in preparation for the match on Saturday,” he admitted.
“Because we are not the biggest of teams we would generally focus on efficient clearing of rucks to generate quick ball, try to keep the ball alive through offloads and not get locked into an arm wrestle.”
To allow them to compete with larger forward packs (which is often the case) the Foyle men make use of the school fitness suite, overseen by rugby’s development officer and strength and conditioning coach Mr David Funston.
Leeson talked about his mental preparations before a huge game and what motivates him to put his body on the line. He tells me that “rugby is a sport like no other”, “there is fierce camaraderie within the team, we’re like brothers out there”. Also he tells me that his love of the game and the desire to succeed drives him on when the tank is empty.
Patrick is ably assisted by his ‘Partner in Crime’ Niall Adair in the back row, who are both useful loose forwards and crucial lineout options. Unfortunately the teams skipper Kyle Henderson will be out for the rest of the season with a knee injury he picked up back in october, and having only played around 20 minutes of match situation rugby since, this will be a devastating blow for Kyle in his final year at Foyle College. However, the breach at out-half is filled by another key player and U-19 Ulsters Schools representative, Vice Captain Neil Burns, who gave a man of the match performance in their previous bowl fixture against Carrick Grammar. Patrick describes centre Ryan Curry as ‘electric’ who has the pace to get on the outside of any defender and create line breaks that give the team go forward ball and get in behind the defence.
The team is coached by Master of Rugby Mr David Barnett and vice principal Ray Menown whose experience, dedication and knowledge are invaluable to the team, both of them being ex-players themselves.
In the previous round of the bowl Patrick tells me that the team played well in poor conditions with the Foyle forwards fronting up against a bigger opposition allowing Foyle’s backs to play some good rugby.
The Second XV and Third XV are still in their respective Cup competitions and hope to keep their run going as long as possible.