It is now 40 years since my initial appearance as a fresh-faced fifth-former for a Methody 1st XV and in the 3 years that I was involved in and around this squad, the furthest we got in the Schools Cup was a quarte-final loss to an RBAI team that lost in the final to Grosvenor HS.
I moved on to play at Collegians, which was the season after they beat City of Derry in to win the Senior Cup. There were six others who also joined from the school at this time and from then on, until the time of the merger with NIRFC, there were no more than 3 or 4 players arriving from the school on an annual basis, this despite constant lobbying and various meetings asking for this type of commitment.
I should also note that in my year at school there were only 4 or 5 or us who were good enough to play at 1st XV level regularly and after school, several of those moved on with their lives as it was pretty clear that they had no interest in playing rugby - or any other sport for that matter - once they moved out into the big bad world. It was also clear that many of the pupils in my school year were leaving for university across the water and even if they did commit to playing rugby it would be for a team in their locale.
I should also note that whilst not many of my peers were initially lost to other clubs, it was about this time that what talent did emerge from the schools system and which decided to remain in the province, started to gravitate towards Bangor, Ballymena, Malone, Instonians and North.
I loved playing, my introduction to the sport was the Baa Baa's V NZ in1973. As I watched it on the telly, I said to myself that I was going to play that sport one day, which I was lucky enough to follow it through. I was also fortunate in that I not only went to a rugby-playing school, but that I encountered someone as passionate about the game in not only David Wells but also those who were prepared to put their time and effort in coaching me through the lower years.
There has been plenty of chat on this site as to why Ulster can no longer find sufficient talent to fill the forwards at academy level and I am afraid that i cannot answer that, other than to say that there is still a large 'brain-drain' with student moving across to Scotland & England after their A-Levels and realistically how many of these people come back once they discover "Wine, Women, Song, Sex, Drugs & Rock n' Roll" or end up having to work shifts over a weekend - remember, life has changed.
It must also be said that I feel that IRFU/UB do themselves little favour by not having a better/more focused programme to attract those from outside their natural catchment area which means providing resources in largely GAA and soccer areas which need to be done for the long term
and with a filter through to the club game, in much the same way that GAA clubs operate.
There are more distractions for the youth of today than ever before, you only have to look at the growth in cycling, computer gaming, skateboarding, water sports (various), running, etc, which are a lot easier than giving or receiving a thumping on a daily/weekly basis - even though this was the bit that I really enjoyed, though my mum hated seeing the results.
As with most things, it is a game of numbers, Methody, Campbell & Inst have won the Schools Cup the most because that have the greater numbers of players in any given year, which means that the school coach may have several options in each position and wherefore affords them the opportunity to put together a good side, however I do recall DW giving a speech at the beginning of each year telling those present that if you did not wan to be there then go get changed and leave - no recriminations - he only wanted to work with those who wanted to be there. And to be fair to him, I did watch several guys leave on each of the 3 occasions were I was a witness to this. It is therefore apparent that coaches of any team is limited to not only the amount of effort that the pupils wish to exert, but also that physique, stature and skill-sets of those participants as no one can make a line-breaking full back out of a bunch of 23 props.
Anyhow, my tuppence-worth now over, I see that Andrew Warwick has picked up a 2 match ban as reported by RTE
https://www.rte.ie/sport/rugby/2021/031 ... -red-card/
Yet there have been no further reports of action on any of the Leinster players. This despite comment (with which I fully concur) by Owen Doyle in his column in the IT: -
"In the Match of Cards, Ulster v Leinster, referee Frank Murphy unwisely allowed himself to be talked into a red card by TMO Olly Hodges; Murphy’s original “decision” of yellow, was undoubtedly the correct call. Insult is often added to injury and Leinster’s Jimmy O’Brien was very fortunate that the referee saw no more than ‘yellow’ in his collision into Ian Madigan."
You have to wonder sometimes!!!