Banbridge RFC coach Daniel Soper is one in a million.
That’s according to local lad Jake Chambers, who was part of the RBAI side that Soper led to a second successive Schools’ Cup victory last week.
Soper oversaw what was an historic season in the school. They retained both the Schools’ Cup and the Medallion Shield, the first school ever to do.
On top of that, they also added the Seconds and Thirds trophies to this year’s accolades - another first in Ulster schools’ rugby.
And that, Chambers reckons, is all thanks to one man.
“We hadn’t won the Schools’ Cup in eight years and now we’ve won in twice in a row.
“That’s the impact he (Soper) has had,” said Chambers, who is joined in the first team squad by Dromore lads Michael Lowry and David Lyttle.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s all down to him as well.
“He is so thorough with everything. Every aspect of the game is planned out. He knows everything about the opposition and what we need to do to beat them. I’ve never seen the likes of it all with anyone else.
“He focuses on the other teams as well as the firsts too. He puts a lot into the medallion team, for example, to make sure we have quality players coming through.
“Last year, we didn’t have the best team but it was his coaching that brought us through. This year, we probably were more expected to win it but we would never have done it without him.” Soper, however, wasn’t so keen to accept all the plaudits.
“I’m a bit scared to answer that,” he laughed. “What happens if we don’t win next year then? Is that down to the coach too?
“It’s nice to be able to point everyone in the right direction but if I haven’t got the right coaches and plahyers there, I can have all the bright ideas in the world, they are not going to achieve anything.
“We have a lot of great players and great coaches there and they’ve all been fantastic.”
Soper, of course, is also trying to mastermind a promotion for his club. So is it tough to balance two big jobs?
He said: “It can be but I’m pretty fortunate that the break came at the right time. I was able to focus on the school for a couple of weeks leading up to the final and now I’m able to put all my energy into Banbridge.
“I’m fortunate that at both teams I have really good people around me as well.”
Chambers, meanwhile, found his two Cup successes hard to take in as he prepares to conclude his time at school. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Jake, whose cousin Josh was in the beaten Campbell College squad.
“It’s all quite surreal but it’s something that will stay with me forever. “It’s the first time we’ve won two in a row since 1948.
“We went down to school at 11am on the day of the final and went into one of the coaches’ rooms for a very informal chat. Then when we left, the whole school came out and made a tunnel for us. That was cool.”
A former Banbridge RFC youth player, Chambers will now look to resume his club career, and will only be too happy to remain under Soper’s stewardship.