Schools' Cup final - Syd's final regret

HE'S enjoyed a glittering career, both playing for and coaching the British Lions, while as an administrator he rose to the position of the most influential man in world rugby, as chairman of the International Rugby Board.

So when an icon of the game such as Syd Millar says he'll have more than a tinge of envy when Ballymena Academy's run out at Ravenhill tomorrow, you begin to get a sense of just how big an occasion the Schools Cup final is.

"I never got to play in the Schools Cup final," Syd told Times Sport.

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"Ballymena Academy was a much smaller school then than it is now and our ability to cope with the likes of Methody, Inst and Campbell was pretty limited.

"We produced some very good players, including some who went on to play at international level, but we didn't really have the numbers to produce a Schools' Cup-winning team.

"But as we've seen from this year's cup run, anything can happen and that what helps the Schools' Cup retain a lot of its magic."

Syd hopes the current crop can go on to leave their mark on the biggest occasion of their rugby careers to date, by bringing the trophy back to Ballymena.

"I was at the semi-final and they played with a great deal of character and spirit, especially as they weren't the favourites and they had struggled a bit to get past Friends in the previous round.

"But they won a lot of lineouts and played a very clever game in the rucks and mauls, winning a lot of turnovers as a result.

"It should be a very good match because, from what I understand, BRA have played very well to get to the final.

"I'm very pleased for the boys - my only regret is that my grandson Oliver won't be able to play because he has had a cruciate knee ligament operation.

"There was some talk that it might have ben put off until the summer but he's hoping to go to university and he has a long recovery ahead of him, so that might be pushing it a bit close.

"Two years ago, Ballymena were unfortunate not to beat Methody in the semi-final and I'm sure if they had won that, they would have gone on to win the trophy.

"It's great for the school and great for the town and it's something that will bring this group of boys together for the rest of their days," added Syd.