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'Great examples of players who seized their opportunities' - Ulster award contracts to academy trio

Eric O’Sullivan, Michael Lowry and James Hume have all secured their first senior deals with the province.

Eric O'Sullivan tackle Racing's Simon Zebo.
Eric O'Sullivan tackle Racing's Simon Zebo.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

ULSTER HAVE ANNOUNCED first senior contracts for three of their academy players. 

Eric O’Sullivan, Michael Lowry and James Hume — all affiliated with Banbridge RF — have signed deals with the province. 

23-year-old loosehead prop O’Sullivan has made 19 appearances for Ulster this season, following his debut in the Pro14 opener against Scarlets. 

Lowry, 20, made his bow against Munster in September and has featured a total of 11 times so far  — scoring his first try against Dragons in October. 

Centre Hume, also 20, has nine appearances to show for himself this term.

“It’s been a great couple of years for me,” said O’Sullivan. “It was a big change for me moving up from Dublin but I tried to take in all in my stride and joining a great club like Banbridge was a massive help for me in terms of my development.

This year has been pretty incredible for me so far, so I’m just hoping to keep that going and enjoy it as much as I can.

“There’s a very exciting group of players coming through and we have a great coaching team in place so I think the future is looking very promising and I’m delighted to be staying on.”

Michael Lowry Michael Lowry facing Leinster. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I’m delighted to have signed my first senior contract — it’s an amazing feeling,” added Lowry. “I’m grateful to my coaches at Dromore minis, The Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Banbridge Rugby Club and in the Ulster Academy for helping me get to this point.

A few of the other young players have signed on as well and that’s great to see that we’re all sticking together. I’m really looking forward to being involved over the next few years.”

Hume was equally as pleased with the news, saying: “It’s been my dream to play for Ulster since I was a child so it’s amazing to be staying for another three years. I’ve really enjoyed my first team experience this season and I’m hoping to get even more opportunities in the years to come.

“I’ve played with Michael for a long time and it’s really special for us to sign our first senior contracts together.”

James Hume James Hume facing Benetton. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland is delighted to have tied the trio down.

“This season has been exciting for the province to see so many academy players step up and perform so well.

“Eric, Michael and James are great examples of players who have seized their opportunities due to their hard work and as a result they have produced outstanding performances at Pro14 and Champions Cup level. All three are fully deserving of senior contracts.

“Kieran Campbell and his academy staff deserve a lot of credit for their work in identifying and nurturing talent in our local clubs and schools, enabling them to transition smoothly into the senior squad.

“We will continue to work hard to build our strength in depth and the development of local young players is central to our future.”

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Ben Blake

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