Sunday 17 November 2019

Heaney desperate to make mark with Ulster

Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe. Photo: Sportsfile
Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

A year ago, Ulster scrum-half Michael Heaney was sitting on a subs bench watching a promising career disappear before it had really begun.

Tonight he will link up again with his former Methody schoolmate Paddy Jackson against Glasgow, in an exciting half-back partnership -- with a four-month deadline to kick-start his professional career.

"I didn't think I would be starting the way things were going 12 months ago, but I have been given a good opportunity pre-season with a four-month contract at Ulster and, hopefully, it will all go well for me against Glasgow," said Heaney.

"It was good to go to Doncaster and get a fresh start and a bit of game time and play at a higher standard than I was playing at. It has helped my case when I came back here.

"The standard in England was better than the All-Ireland League. It was more physical, with most of the teams training at a professional level.

"The standard of rugby was higher. There was the likes of Bristol, London Welsh and the Cornish Pirates and they were as good as any Premiership team, so it was a good step up and I think I have benefited from it.

"It is always good to have a fresh start and the entire squad has been trying to claim a starting place against Glasgow. Everyone has been working hard through pre-season and hopefully the fans will see the benefits tonight."

There are three other newcomers for coach Mark Anscombe's opening bow, with exciting Aussie openside Sean Doyle, the much-travelled and sometimes maligned Samoan Nick Williams featuring in the back-row, while Rob Herring debuts at hooker.

Ulster go into the game on the back of a three-game unbeaten run in pre-season, but they face a mighty task against a side that reached the semi-final stage of the Pro12 last season, and who have recruited extremely well and are loaded with internationals.

"Playing Ulster in a passionate environment like Ravenhill is certainly a big challenge, but one that the players will find inspiring rather than intimidating," said new Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend.

Verdict: Ulster at -4 to kick off their season in winning fashion.

Ulster -- J Payne; M Allen, C Farrell, L Marshal, C Gilroy; P Jackson, M Heaney; C Black: R Herring, J Afoa, J Muller, capt, L Stevenson, R Diack, S Doyle, N Williams. Replacements: N Brady, T Court, D Fitzpatrick, N McComb, M McComish, P Marshall, N O'Connor, D Cave.

Glasgow -- P Murchie; T Seymour, A Dunbar, G Morrison, S Lamont; D Weir, H Pyrgos; G Reid, F Gillies, M Cusack, T Ryder, Al Kellock capt, R Harley, C Fusaro, R Wilson. Replacements: D Hall, M Low, R Grant, J Eddie, J Barclay, C Cusiter, R Jackson, P Horne.

Ref -- M Mitrea (Italy).

Ulster v Glasgow,

Live, 7.05, BBC 2

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