Promising Connacht winger Tiernan O'Halloran has pledged his future to the side by signing his first full contract.
The 20-year old, who has scored four tries this season, including two in the Heineken Cup, has signed a two-year contract. And in a further boost to a Connacht side who have lost a dozen on the spin, their longest-serving player Michael Swift has extended his contract by another season and will be at the Sportsground until the summer of 2013 at least.
O'Halloran was signed on a development contract last season after graduating from the Connacht academy, but a series of eye-catching performances saw his stock rise rapidly. Connacht coach Eric Elwood was delighted to secure the services of the Clifden native.
"Tiernan has been ever-present all year and he has been very consistent for us," Elwood said. "He has got this contract on merit and has been our attacker of the week on a few occasions. He is putting himself out there, his contribution and the consistency of his effort has been justified. He has been one of our top players all season."
After being given his big break this season, O'Halloran was thrilled to see his hard work come to fruition with his home province.
"At the moment, Connacht is the place for me to be because I am getting the chance to play. After injuries over the last few years, I am very grateful to Eric," he said.
Wallace in frame for
Ireland's Paddy Wallace will see his first action for six weeks when he comes off the Ulster bench for the Pro12 trip to Michael Bradley's Edinburgh on Friday.
Wallace will be joined by fellow internationals Stephen Ferris, Tom Court, Andrew Trimble and Rory Best with the quartet starting the game at Murrayfield. Wallace underwent surgery to repair a tendon in his thumb at the end of November and returned to train with the Ireland squad last weekend and yesterday with his Ulster colleagues. Coach Brian McLaughlin is hopeful that Wallace will be fit to take some part.
"Paddy will be assessed by the medical staff to see whether he will be available," said McLaughlin, who hopes to have his strongest side on the park to in what will be a warm-up for the Heineken Cup clash with Leicester the following week.
McLaughlin looks set to give short-term signing Stephen Terblanche his first start at full-back after the Springbok's excellent try-scoring performance against Munster last Friday.
With the Ireland players returning to their normal positions, McLaughlin is unlikely to make more changes. "Edinburgh have been exceptionally competitive in Europe and scoring a lot of points, and they will be a big test for us," he said.
Ulster squad in Factfile