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'Rugby has been a stress reliever': Ulster's Paul Marshall opens up about young son's cancer diagnosis

The scrum-half made his 200th appearance for the province on Friday evening.

Paul Marshall ahead of Friday's game against Treviso.
Paul Marshall ahead of Friday's game against Treviso.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

YOU MAY HAVE missed it over the weekend.

On Friday night, Paul Marshall — the 32-year-old Ulster scrum-half — became just the fifth player to reach 200 appearances for the Ulster.

In doing so, he emulated the feat of Roger Wilson, Andrew Trimble, Robbie Diack and Rory Best in reaching the landmark.

Marshall came off the bench to replace John Cooney during Ulster’s narrow Pro14 victory over Treviso, in what was just his fifth appearance of the season, and one which was emotionally-charged for more reasons than one.

In an interview on Ulster’s website published this afternoon, Marshall has spoken of the heart-wrenching news he received three months ago when told his young son had a form of cancer.

Marshall, capped three times by Ireland, says rugby has given him an outlet and acted as a stress reliever over the last few months following two-year-old Luke’s diagnosis.

“The first week of the season my son Luke got diagnosed with a form of cancer, which came completely out of the blue. It’s something that we weren’t expecting obviously, as I’m sure most families don’t,” he said.

“For the first part of the season I’ve been away quite a bit because I’ve had to deal with things at home. I’m really thankful to Bryn (Cunningham) and Les (Kiss) and the whole organisation – everyone has been really supportive. It’s ongoing and it will be for another while, but we are just pleased that he’s receiving treatment and we’re really thankful to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. All the medical staff have been absolutely amazing.

“It was his second birthday on Thursday and I got my 200th game for Ulster on Friday so it was a nice couple of days for us as a family.

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Paul Marshall Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“My family has sacrificed so much to help me in my career. It’s at times like this that you realise how much your wife does, especially when you’re on away trips and she’s running around after a couple of kids at home. It really puts a different perspective on your family life.

“I guess for me, to be able to play in the games that I have this season, it’s been a bit of a stress reliever from other areas of life. Usually you’re trying to get away from rugby, whereas rugby has probably allowed me to switch off from other things that have been going on.”

Marshall came off the bench on Friday to play his part in the build-up to Andrew Trimble’s match-winning try at the death.

He continued: “My 100th game was away and my 150th game was away, so it was nice to get my 200th cap at home in front of friends and family and it was even better to mark the occasion with a win.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed to play the game for so long in this environment and I’ve enjoyed it, but I don’t feel like I’m ready for it to end yet and that’s why I’m still working hard and trying to be the best that I can be. I’m just as ambitious as ever.”

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