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Title-holders block St Columba's path

HOCKEY: St Columba's were handed the toughest possible group stage in the All-Ireland Schoolboys Championships, following the draw this week.

The Rathfarnham school will look to the likes of Ross Canning and Harry Morris to deal with the challenge of reigning champions Banbridge Academy in Group One.

Banbridge have a number of star players who are set to return for another year, including Irish underage internationals Josh Moffett, Owen Magee, Matthew Bell and Peter Brown.

They will come into the three-day competition off the back of their club side Banbridge's Euro Hockey League - the sport's Champion's League equivalent - trip to Antwerp, before beginning their defence of the schoolboys' title on October 26 in Ashton, Cork.

Seven-time winners RBAI are also involved in Group Four, while Midleton -- semi-finalists a year ago -- make up the quartet. The Munster side have seen talisman Nick Burns move on but younger brother Alex is still around, while three members of the province's recently named U18 side are also involved.



Contenders

Leinster contenders St Andrew's bid for a third title is powered by David Cole, but there is also plenty of emerging talent to give them further hope, including Eric Foy, Mark Loughrey and Ben Campbell -- who recently made his first-team debut for YMCA.

The Booterstown academy faces Friends, Regent House and Bandon, who boast a talented quintet of Munster U18s, including skipper Scott Sullivan.

Wesley face the hosting school, Ashton, as well as Wallace HS and Sullivan Upper.

In Group One, Leinster pair Sutton Park and Newpark have a tough draw against Ulster giants Cookstown and Campbell College. Sutton began the season in style with a big win over St Killian's, but will have their work cut out against Town, whose star player is Irish senior international Ian Sloan.

The event runs for three days across Cork, and is played in Ashton, Bandon, Midleton, the Mardyke and Garryduff, which will host the final at 2.30pm on Friday, October 28.

All-Ireland Schoolboy Championships draw

Group 1: Cookstown, Campbell, Sutton Park, Newpark

Group 2: St Andrew's, Friends, Bandon, Regent House

Group 3: Ashton, Wallace, Wesley, Sullivan Upper

Group 4: Banbridge, RBAI, Midleton, St Columba's