Enniskillen Royal Grammar school rugby coach Ashley Finlay is hoping that his young team can cause a few upsets when they kick off their Schools' Cup campaign on Saturday morning when they travekl to face Dalriada High School.

ERGS are seeded outside the top eight this year but like many are glad to be back competing after Covid-19 led to the cancellation of last year's tournament.

Ashley commented: "It has been a very difficult period for everyone over the past 18 months. The lockdowns and halt of extracurricular activities took a particular toll on young people in schools, so it has been great to get back on the pitch training and playing matches regularly after so long."

Indeed, Covid-19 and the rapid spread of positive cases via the Omicron variant has had an impact on training and preparations.

Ashely added: "Covid-19 has definitely impacted preparations this year with many people having to spend time in isolation and with several matches having to be cancelled. However, everyone is in the same situation and whoever deals with these setbacks the best will likely have the best run in the Cup.

"Thankfully we managed to have a productive few weeks' training over Christmas and played a competitive match in the New Year against Dungannon, so we are in a good place right now."

To this end, Ashley is hoping that his team which is quite young can make an impact in the competition.

"We have been seeded outside of the top eight this year and have a young team with lots of potential," explained Ashley.

"Our major issue has been playing to that potential on a consistent basis. We have prepared well this past few weeks and if we can build some momentum, we can cause a few upsets, but we are only focused on Dalriada at the minute."

The coach expects a tough examination and says his side will certainly not be underestimating Dalriada.

"We do not play them as a regular fixture through the season so we know very little about them. They have had some good results this year and we will not be underestimating them. There is the added challenge of a long bus journey as Ballymoney is nearly the farthest draw we could have got," said Ashley.

He hopes that the boys show confidence in their own ability and bring this to the pitch.

"The boys simply need to have confidence in their own ability, and realise that they are a very talented group of individuals and can play some outstanding rugby as a team. They have shown that numerous times this year and have the potential to beat almost any side in Ulster when on form."

And so it will be all hands to the pump on Saturday morning.

ERGS will be looking to the likes of Ben McLaren who has recently transitioned from football to rugby and has been a real star, he has lightning speed and is one of their main try scoring threats.

Tadhg Hambly has been a nailed in starter at out-half this year which is a difficult task as a fifth year. He has an excellent range of kicking and controls the tempo of the game which will be important in the heat of battle.

Peter Read has been the standout forward, the lineout has functioned close to perfect this season and his work rate in defence and attack is exemplary.

These and more will need to play to a high level if ERGS are to secure the win and ensure progress into the next round.

Whatever happens, it will be great to get some competitive schools rugby back on the pitch, so there is much to look forward and nothing to lose for the young players.