Tuesday 21 February 2017

McLaughlin looks to future with deals for Ulster trio

Published 11/01/2011 | 05:00

EVEN ahead of the biggest European date in Belfast in years, the wheeling and dealing continued at Ravenhill yesterday.

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After the announcement last week that Niall O'Connor and Mark McCrea were heading out west to join Connacht, Ulster secured the futures of Dan Tuohy -- on a two-year deal -- and prop Paddy McAllister and centre Nevin Spence, who were upgraded from development to full contracts.

Lock Tuohy has made a considerable impact since his arrival from Exeter at the start of the 2009-10 season and was capped by Ireland last summer, while former Northern Ireland U-16 soccer player Spence has featured regularly in the Ulster midfield alongside Paddy Wallace.

Paddy McAllister's rise has been rapid: he made his debut in September when he came off the bench against the Ospreys having only signed his academy deal a couple of months earlier.

But the feel-good factor around Ravenhill will dissipate quickly should they fail to reach the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup.

Biarritz's shock defeat to Aironi earlier in Round 3 means that Ulster lie just three points behind last year's finalists in Pool 4 and with Ulster due to face the Italians in the final round, Brian McLaughlin's side are well placed to make the knock-out stages for the first time since their 1999 triumph.

Ulster were on the receiving end of a 35-10 hammering when the sides met in France, but are a different prospect at home where they have won their last seven European matches.

"Getting to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals has been one of our prime objectives for the season," said McLaughlin.

"The match against Biarritz is an extremely important game because, we have it all to play for -- there are two games left and they are two games we must win."

Irish Independent

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