Monday, 1 April 2013

Ready to stand up with the Ulstermen

This is my ticket for Ulster's Heineken Cup Quarter Final tie with Saracens at Twickenham this coming Saturday.  Or rather was.

Because in a bizarre twist of fate, last night I received a phone call from my old school first fifteen teammate Jonathan "Dinger" Bell, now Ulster's defence coach.  And, on Saturday, I won't now be sitting in the stands.  I'll be playing.

A series of injuries suffered by Ulster's wingers has left them desperately short.  British and Irish Lions legend Tommy Bowe is already out and, two days ago, he was joined on the sidelines by Ireland international Andrew Trimble.

Trimble, like Dinger and me, is a Coleraine Inst Old Boy.  And when he called last night, Dinger said he believed I was the obvious like for like replacement.  Quite a compliment, I have to say.

I explained that I had been out of the game for quite a while now, and suggested that perhaps one of Ulster's young turks should be given a chance instead.  But he was having none of it.  Class is permanent, he said, and I could not help but agree.

So tonight, I fly from Leeds Bradford to Belfast to join the squad. After three days of intensive preparations at Ulster's New Forge training base, we will travel across to London.  And on Saturday at shortly before 6.30pm, I will run out at Twickenham to do battle with Chris Ashton, Owen Farrell and Saracens' other big name stars.

I can only do my best. But I cannot and will not let my Province down.