I read recently in the Cricket Column of a well known resident of the Borough of North Down that there was particular delight in cricket circles at the fact that Kyle McCallan was re-introducing the gospel to Grosvenor GS. There is no doubt that their re-affiliation to the Schools Organisation is a very pleasing development for this school was once a considerable nursery of talent for the Cregagh and CIYMS clubs in particular, with Queens also often reaping the benefits.

However I feel that even more notable is the affiliation of several other Schools arising as it does out of the fact that the Schools Committee has taken over the running of so many of the former MUCG Competitions. In this yearÕs N.C.U. Handbook (every bit as important a volume as your 2002 Wisden!) the names of Brownlow Integrated College, Craigavon Senior High School, Forthhill College, Rainey Endowed Schools, St. Colman's Strabane, and St Columb's College Derry, catch the eye. Whereas they may play in a limited range of the events at present their participation is most welcome and I would want to wish each (and any other "new or re-entries") every enjoyment for their cricket this and any succeeding seasons.

There are also developments in the GirlsÕ game. There has been for a number of years now a Senior Girls Schools Cup, though information about it has been, shall we say, difficult to garner. However the work of Nicky McCreadie in her placement at the cricket office at the House of Sport is bearing fruit, and the level of participation is considerably enhanced. There has also been an Ulster GirlsÕ panel drawn up, and although there is a long way to go a much firmer base for the GirlsÕ game in Ulster seems to be being built; well done Nicky. I hope to have more specific details in the near future.

Today sees the start of the "Blue Riband" competition for schools, and as I write it is, almost inevitably , raining. However the forecast, which has been uncannily accurate of late, suggests that all will be well on the day. Those of us on the schools circuit are well aware of the raft of rules which exist to ensure that a result is achieved on the day, for the prospect of further days in this hectically crowded, exam. Driven term is nigh unthinkable. However it is our unspoken aim to not to have to use the regulations, and rain has been rendered invisible, and watches mysteriously gone slow (or fast) to avoid entering the realm of computation. May all the games come to a fair and proper conclusion.

If I have to put on my "cap of prediction", who can I see to remove Bangor G.S. from the position of Holders? Look no further than our first round opponents Wallace High who have David Simpson from last years Irish SchoolsÕ XI, Tim Parr from Ulster Schools, and the considerable talents of Tim Cockram, if he can be weaned away from the Hockey pitch for long enough. Strabane G.S., holders in 2000, and runners-up last year will be formidable as ever, though an even bigger North West threat may well come from Foyle & L.C. whose young side of last season had already showed its mettle. R.B.A.I. will have profited from their pre-season trip to South Africa, and they impressed the visitors from KingsÕ School, Macclesfield who were in the province last week-end. We have already received a comprehensive lesson from Banbridge Academy who might just surprise some of the more established school sides while B.R.A. and a young Limavady G.S. team will be worth watching. If you "catch a game" I hope itÕs a good one, and the Ulster Schools Selectors will, as ever, be on the look-out for players of talent with the big-match temperament to go with it.