It’s Grim Up North: Ulster’s Malaise

 

Les Kiss_Ulster Coach

Les Kiss, the now former Director of Rugby at Ulster, did the state a hell of a lot of service – not in the Charlie Haughey way, and I’m not implying any infringement on the nature of cross-border co-operation in Irish rugby, or unduly politicising his role … Jaysis, probably should just say something else nice about him. I only have so many non-Simpsons quotes though.

It’s been a long time since The Demented Mole shook the dirt off his mighty paws and focused his myopia on once-proud Ulster. There was a background article in the works – there always is, it’s just that time and topicality seem to escape them – before Les Kiss resigned his post, but the timing of his departure set against the background of the Jackson/Olding trial throws the disfunction of the organisation into relief.  Continue reading

Ireland Second Rows in 2016 – The Post-Paul O’Connell Era

toner-ryan_new-zealand

Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner celebrate Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks in Chicago. They’re neither the most complementary second row partnership that Ireland have fielded in the professional era, nor the most individually talented locks, but they’ve succeeded where more illustrious pairings have failed.

Given the number of headlines sent to print and the variety of plaudits doled out for Ireland’s performances in November, it has been telling that very few of those made a hero of Devin Toner, one of only two Irish players to have gone the full 80 minutes in the three games against Southern Hemisphere opposition.  Continue reading

LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS [Little Bit Of Time For Actually Talking About The Match That’s Currently On] LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS etc.

Dylan Hartley and Rory Best went  head to head last Friday night and there was only one - LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS

Dylan Hartley and Rory Best went head to head last Friday night and there was only one – LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS LIONS

The Mole was recently moved to speak out in defense of Sky Sports in a social situation. Suffice it to say that said defense went down just about as well as Randy Marsh’s appearance on Wheel of Fortune. Ohhhhhhhh. “Naggers”. Continue reading

Our Friends From The North, Pt.3 – Ryan Caldwell And The Lessons He Could Teach You

Ryan Caldwell breaks away from Mamuka Gorgodze in Bath’s 2011-12 Heineken Cup clash against Montpellier.

Some time ago we published a couple of articles about Ulster-born players Chris Henry and Roger Wilson. Apparently it was going to be a four-part series [or so we claimed], except we never bothered to post anything after the first two chapters. That’d be the sands of time slipping through the gnarled fingers of Old Man Editorial Control. Wait a minute – that makes no sense. In the words of Dexys, plus ça changeContinue reading

Our Friends From The North Pt.2 – Roger Wilson: 233 for 1

Roger Wilson bursts through a gap for Northampton. The two-time Ulster Player of the Year has returned to his home province, having spent four busy years with the Saints. It will be interesting to see if his performances in the white No8 jersey can push him forward for international contention, or if there’s too much track worn off the tires.

Roger Wilson: since making his debut for Ulster as a 21-year old in September 2002, the Belfast-born No8 has played an enormous amount of professional rugby. In five seasons with Ulster he played 116 games [101 starts] and since moving to Northampton at the end of the 2007-08 season he hasn’t let up, playing 117 games [108 starts] for the Saints. In total, he has played 46 Heineken Cup games, all but one of them from kick-off.

How many tests for Ireland has he played? One. Against Japan. Seven years ago.  Continue reading

Our Friends From The North Pt.1 – Chris Henry’s Coming To Dinner

Chris Henry predicts the number of minutes he’ll get off the bench for Ireland next season.

What looks like having been the sole dog day of the summer fell a month to the day after Ireland’s dismal 60-0 drubbing. Continue reading

Ulster: A Season At The Brink Or A Place At The Top Table?

“Stand Up For The Ulstermen” rings out and Stephen Ferris is all ears. Having had a taste of Heineken Cup knock-out rugby over the last two seasons, Ulster will be looking to get to the top of the mountain next season. Do they have what it takes?

Ulster are a fine team who got into the Heineken Cup final on merit: they beat ASM Clermont Auvergne, Leicester and Munster [in Thomond Park, no less] in the competition, a very worthy set of scalps in any season.  Continue reading

Heineken Cup Final Reaction #1: M’Learned Friends Of The Bench

Cronin scoots in on eighty minutes for the fifth Leinster try. While it must have been hard to take for Ulster fans, Leinster fans will be happy that the team played for the whole match and kept scoring until the final whistle.

Leinster were always going to try and stretch the eighty minutes; one of their major advantages over Ulster lay in the fact that they had more talent on the bench, especially in the pack. The starting eights seemed quite equal on pre-match inspection, but it was obvious that there was a quality disparity in whom the respective coaches could call off the bench.  Continue reading

The Fingers Of The Red Hand

Even for The Mole, there has almost been surplus coverage of the Heineken Cup final in Twickenham. Ulster and Leinster have been analysed, examined and dissected in such depth that it is very difficult to consider any angle that would contribute anything further in the search for clues as to which team might have the ascendency in this game. Continue reading