MacLarnon Cup victory will be 'new terrain' for either Rathmore or St Joseph's, Donaghmore
THE winner of this year's MacLarnon Cup final will be entering "new terrain" never experienced by either of the competing schools.
For St Joseph's Grammar School, Donaghmore, it is their first experience of playing in the football decider after the Co Tyrone college progressed comfortably past St Louis', Ballymena in the semi-finals.
And 16 years after their one and only appearance in the U19 final, Rathmore Grammar School, Belfast are back and aiming to win the trophy for the first time after taking out Loreto, Milford in the other semi-final.
Ahead of the final, support and excitement for both schools has been growing with large crowds expected at the game on Friday night.
For Rathmore, it is just a short journey from Dunmurry to the Dub Arena in south Belfast.
Conor Ewing, who is currently working with the coaching staff while on university placement at the school, said the team had worked very hard and were determined to secure their first MacLarnon Cup success.
"There's a good feeling about the school, everyone is looking forward to Friday night," he said.
"Our hurlers were just recently beaten in a final, so the focus has been on them bouncing back as there's a few dual players and they have done that.
"The players have been flat out since August in preparation for this, so they will give it their all.
"They will have plenty of support with them."
The journey may be longer for the St Joseph's supporters, but it's unlikely that will curtail the crowds who will make their way to Belfast to cheer on their team.
Paul Quinn, a teacher and coach, said there had been "a massive buzz" all week in the school, which only starting admitting boys less than 20 years ago.
"It's new terrain for us, it's only in recent years that we have entered Ulster Colleges so there's lots of excitement," he said.
"This is the first time that we have reached the final and just the third time playing at MacLarnon Cup level, but the boys are ready for it.
"Our team comes primarily from Donaghmore and that group of lads have won so much together.
"Last year we got to the semi-final and just fell apart, so this is big for us this year and the craic has been mighty on the way.
"The potential that these lads had was spotted in second year of school and we have been working with them since third year and they have come through.
"This is the first time they are getting a go at this and they are going to give it their all. And if they can get through here now, there's the potential of going for the MacRory Cup.
"It's a huge opportunity for the boys, for the school and we're all really looking forward to it."