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Madigan and Mathewson are 'two quality additions' for Ulster

The 31-year-old out-half and 34-year-old scrum-half add depth to Dan McFarland’s squad.

THE PAIR OF Springboks joining Munster will understandably continue to capture most attention but there have been intriguing summer signings confirmed elsewhere in Ireland too.

Connacht look to be adding much-needed depth with the additions of Sammy Arnold, Conor Oliver, Jack Aungier and Oisin Dowling – with more potentially to come – while Ulster have two experienced new faces to welcome ahead of next season.

Alby Mathewson and Ian Madigan will join Ulster, with centre Stewart Moore promoted from the academy, to leave head coach with a 43-man senior squad.

alby-mathewson Alby Mathewson was a popular figure in Munster. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

34-year-old Mathewson was well-liked during his 15 months with Munster and arguably could have started some of their biggest games ahead of Conor Murray. Still extremely fit for his age, the New Zealander was raved about by his Munster team-mates, many of whom learned from his infectious professionalism.

With John Cooney likely to be away in Ireland camps, the addition of Mathewson makes sense, providing a top-class option at scrum-half as 26-year-old David Shanahan and 22-year-old Jonny Stewart jostle for game time too.

Ireland U20s scrum-half Lewis Finlay is now part of the Ulster academy, while Nathan Doak is a very exciting prospect too.

The other new signing for Ulster is an even more familiar face in out-half Ian Madigan.

The 30-times capped Ireland international left Leinster in 2016 to join Bordeaux in the Top 14 but that move didn’t live up to his hopes or expectations, prompting him to get out of his two-year contract there after just one season.

Madigan moved on to Pat Lam’s Bristol in 2017 and helped them out of the Championship in his first season. However, Madigan has had frustrations in the two seasons since due to injury issues and the emergence of Callum Sheedy at out-half for Bristol.

The 31-year-old, who Sheedy has praised for his mentorship, now returns to Ireland to link up with Ulster on a one-year deal.

Madigan’s ability to play at fullback and inside centre is useful for Ulster, while his experience could be important in the squad during international windows if he doesn’t earn an Ireland recall himself.

Madigan will compete with incumbent starter Billy Burns and Bill Johnston for minutes at out-half, while centre Angus Curtis is an option there and the academy includes 20-year-old out-half Bruce Houston.

ian-madigan Madigan played for the Barbarians against Ulster in 2017. Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

The additions of Mathewson and Madigan appear to make the Ulster squad stronger and certainly ensure greater depth, with their experience also a factor head coach Dan McFarland considered.

Back row Jordi Murphy, who previously played with Madigan in Leinster and for Ireland, has welcomed the signings.

“They are two quality additions,” said Murphy

“Alby has obviously got a lot of experience under his belt. I played against him when he was at Munster and he’s so competitive and a really tough guy, so I’m really looking forward to having him in the squad.

“I would have gone through Leinster with Ian for a number of years and again he’s a really tough competitor and a quality player.

“He obviously made the decision to go abroad a couple of years back and it was the right decision at the time.

“Look, he’ll probably say himself that it’s been a tough couple of years for him but it’s great to have him back on the island of Ireland.

“I just think he’ll add so much quality and experience to the side and with Billy Burns and Bill Johnston, I think that’s proper quality depth in the 10 position.

“And then you’ve got guys like Angus Curtis who can also play at 10 so I think to have someone of that quality and experience to come in is only going to help the group.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing him, not just from a personal point of view because he’s a good friend of mine, but from a professional point of view, he’s going to add a lot.”

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Murray Kinsella

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