Sunday 25 February 2018

Stephen Ferris on jail fears over assault and not having enough money to pay for meal after Ireland call-up

BT Sport pundit and former Ulster player Stephen Ferris
BT Sport pundit and former Ulster player Stephen Ferris

Rachel Martin

Ulster rugby star Stephen Ferris has revealed he feared going to prison following an assault while defending his brother while also admitting he didn't have enough money to pay for a meal after his first Ireland call-up.

The retired rugby player has also described how he "struggled to play on" after the slurry tank death of Nevin Spence.

In extracts from his autobiography published in the Sunday Life, Ferris said he was shocked that someone he had kicked a ball around a car park with just 24 hours earlier died so suddenly.

He wrote: "From the moment I hear Nevin has died, it is all a bit of a blank until he is buried. Time seems to go by in a flash.

"Before I know it, I am sitting in a church with three coffins, side by side, at the front. This does not happen to any family anywhere across the world. Why is it happening?"

He explained that while he was "not best mates" with the up-and-coming player, the pair chatted on a daily basis.

He also told readers how he had teased Nevin for his "rare jokes" and added how the young player was often "smiling away".

Among the anecdotes of his experiences as an international rugby hero and his relationships with others, the 30-year-old also revealed what really happened the night he ended up in a brawl that he feared could have sent him to prison.

Ferris was hit with a bottle during the incident just off the Lisburn Road in Belfast in 2009.

He said he had been jogging down the street when he came across a gang "kicking the head off" his brother.

He admitted that he got involved in the fight but maintained that "all I was trying to do was save my brother".

Although he was not found guilty of causing actual bodily harm, Ferris was left with a £19,000 legal fee and said he was still "not free from suspicion".

The retired rugby union player, who played for Ulster and represented Ireland internationally, also revealed how he worried he did not have enough cash to pay for a meal when he was first selected to play for Ireland.

And in another striking episode, he described the humbling moment his first car broke down on the fast lane of the M1, causing a five-mile tailback.

As a young professional, the player had just bought a 3.2 litre BMW M3, only for the motor to conk out on its maiden journey.

"Half an hour earlier I thought I was some Billy Big D**k in this class car," Ferris wrote.

"But there I was, sat holding up traffic coming from Dungannon. I kept the head down with the hazard lights on until the police arrived. We pushed it on to the hard shoulder and I rang a crowd to get it towed."

But the autobiography is not all jokes and delves into darker, tragic areas of Ferris's personal life.

It sees the Armagh man publicly open up for the first time about the death of his brother, Andrew, who was killed in a car accident in 1979 when he was just four.

Ferris told how his brother had picked up some flowers for his mum just moments before his death.

He added that while his parents were not religious, the flowers and the Bible they were pressed into remain a very special item for the family to this day.

The former Ulster and Ireland flanker, who retired last year because of a recurring ankle injury, is due to launch his autobiography, Man and Ball, tomorrow night at the Europa Hotel.

He made his debut for Ulster as a substitute against Border Reivers in 2005 aged 20.

Just a year later, he was named Ulster's player of the year.

Belfast Telegraph

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