Danske Bank Medallion Shield, Round Four
Foyle College will be seeking to cause a huge upset when they entertain Ulster schools aristocrats Campbell College on Saturday in round four of the Danske Bank Medallion Shield at their Limavady Road campus (11am).
Coaches Ally Ferguson and Neil Stewart have already seen their players exceed expectations on a memorable run that has put Foyle back among the ‘big boys’ in terms of schools’ rugby with Foyle Director of Rugby, Paul O’Kane backing the talented squad to do themselves proud in a fixture they go into as massive underdogs.
“The aim at the start of the year was to go on a journey that would put this team back among the elite of schools rugby,” explained O’Kane, “That was the reason we took the team to Limerick to train and play teams like Crescent College.
“Had you been talking to us a year and a half ago, the boys would probably have been panicking about the prospect of facing Campbell but these boys are looking forward to it. They want to see how far they can push Campbell and you never know.
“It is a free hit to an extent because no one expects us to do anything against Campbell. I’m sure Campbell don’t expect us to do anything against Campbell and that is part of the incentive for us.
“Ally and Neil have done a wonderful job with the players but we have tried to stress the importance of playing Campbell and not the occasion. Our boys are not used to these occasions whereas Campbell are playing at a level that is much higher than us.
“Campbell create a fixture list that takes them the length and breadth of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England to play the top teams and our guys don’t get that exposure to top level rugby week in, week out the way the Campebll boys do. That’s why this game will be a big ask and a steep learning curve.”
Shocks are nothing new to this Foyle side though who having defeated Rainey earlier inthe season, accounted for Carrick Grammar in the last round and will look to the likes of Robert Rankin, Finn Curtis, Conor Kelly, Adam Kileen and James McKillop, to carry the fight to their illustrious opponents.
“We’ve got to rise to the occasion from the first whistle, not 10 minutes in. We won’t have the luxury of settling in,” explains O’Kane.
“We’ve watched some videos and their No. 10 is a kicking 10. They like to win territory and have a big pack who love to maul and pick and go but our boys have created a couple of shocks already. They gave Enniskillen a real game and beat Rainey who are four divisions above them in schools rugby.
“They’ve earned their shot at a team like Campbell. Part of the boys’ development this year was getting to this round because, worse case scenario, we get a really good quality game this round. If we make the last eight of the Shield we are into top, top quality teams but even if we drop into the Plate competition with the losers from this round, we still have top quality fixtures for the players.
“If we lose, we go into the quarter-finals of the Plate where you could meet RBAI or Royal School Armagh who have been drawn against each other. You are going to have a really strong Plate competition which means we are now in with the ‘big boys’ for the long haul and that will help the players no end. It’s exciting.
“The year has been a massive positive for the players and the school and we hope they do themselves justice because there is real talent within this squad.”