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Ulster Young Guns (Go For It!)

  • 07-09-2020 3:48pm
    Registered Users Posts: 4,113 ✭✭✭

    Found myself watching Alan Quinlan blethering on OTB earlier. In amongst the waffle and commentating spoofery, someone made a point I did the other day about Munster, trying to maintain their reputation, being afraid to trust in the young guns when they know the old guard can at least deliver something respectable at the hard end of the season. Would the fans forgive them if they started fielding Ahern, Hodnett, Casey et al and lost to Ospreys at home or Treviso away?

    Then I was thinking about how good Hume looked for Ulster on Saturday, and just wanted to have a wee look at how some of our young bucks are establishing themselves in the team, and what sort of experience they’re getting in our toughest, crunch games; fixtures in Europe and knock-out games. We are finishing off the second season of a mooted five season rebuild, according to Bryn Cunningham, so I thought I’d look at how we’re coming along; what we’re sowing for the future.

    So there’s Eric O’Sullivan (24), Robert Baloucoune (23), Angus Curtis (22), James Hume (21), Bill Johnston (23), Michael Lowry (22), Rob Lyttle (23), Tom O’Toole (21) all seemingly breaking through. I’m including EOS because 24 is young in prop years, but there are other 24 olds in other positions – Greg Jones, Kieran Treadwell, Adam McBurney - that I don’t really think of as the next generation coming through. (There’s also 24 year old Stockdale of course.)

    The likes of Marcus Rea, Allison, McIlroy and Moore have had cameos, and hopefully we’ll see them start to feature this season, but they’re a ways behind.

    Angus Kernohan, David Busby, Jack Regan, Aaron Hall, Caleb Montgomery, Matthew Dalton, Johnny McPhillips, Johnny Stewart and I’m sure others all had various cracks of the whip and then lit out for pastures anew. McPhillips was the only one that seemed to have something about him, although Kernohan was fine.

    Also, I am supposed to be starting a new project in work, so it somehow became imperative that I engage in this time-sink rather than get my head around something new and exasperating on a grey rainy day.

    So instead of that, I've listed when these young guys turned out in our toughest matches, and what number was on their back.

    17-18 SEASON

    Ospreys HOME 20/05/18 PRO 14 European qualifier
    W 35-17
    Tom O’Toole (3)

    18-19 SEASON

    Leicester HOME 13/08/18
    W 24-10
    Michael Lowry (15), Eric O’Sullivan (17), Angus Curtis (22)

    Racing 92 AWAY 20/08/18
    L 44-12
    Michael Lowry (15), Eric O’Sullivan (17)

    Scarlets AWAY 07/12/18
    W 24-25
    Eric O’Sullivan (1), Tom O’Toole (18)

    Scarlets HOME 14/12/18
    W 30-15
    Eric O’Sullivan (1), Tom O’Toole (18)

    Racing 92 HOME 12/01/2019
    W 26-22
    Robert Baloucoune (14), Eric O’Sullivan (1), Michael Lowry (22)

    Leicester AWAY 19/01/2019
    W 13-14
    Robert Baloucoune (14), Eric O’Sullivan (1), Michael Lowry (22)

    Leinster AWAY 30/03/2019 – EURO QF
    L 21-18
    Michael Lowry (15), Robert Baloucoune (14), Eric O’Sullivan (1)

    Connacht HOME 04/05/19 – PRO 14 QF
    W 21-13
    Michael Lowry (15), Robert Baloucoune (14), Rob Lyttle (11), Eric O’Sullivan (1), Tom O’Toole (18)

    Glasgow AWAY 17/05/19 PRO 14 SF
    L 50-20
    Michael Lowry (15), Eric O’Sullivan (1), Tom O’Toole (18)

    19-20 SEASON

    Bath AWAY 06/11/19
    W 16-17
    Rob Lyttle (14), Eric O’Sullivan (18), Tom O’Toole (19), Angus Curtis (21)

    Clermont HOME 22/11/19
    W 18-13
    Eric O’Sullivan (1), Tom O’Toole (18), Bill Johnston (22)

    Harlequins HOME 07/12/19
    W 25-24
    Eric O’Sullivan (1), Tom O’Toole (18), Bill Johnston (22)

    Harlequins AWAY 13/12/19
    W 10-34
    Eric O’Sullivan (1), Tom O’Toole (18), Bill Johnston (22)

    Clermont AWAY 11/01/2020
    L 29-13
    Robert Baloucoune (14), Eric O’Sullivan (17), Tom O’Toole (18), Bill Johnston (22)

    Bath HOME 18/01/2020
    W 22-15
    Robert Baloucoune (14), Tom O’Toole (3), Eric O’Sullivan (17), Bill Johnston (22)

    Edinburgh AWAY 05/09/20 PRO 14 SF
    W 19-22
    Rob Lyttle (11), Eric O’Sullivan (1), Tom O’Toole (3), James Hume (13), Michael Lowry (23)

    We really did rely on Eric O'Sullivan until Jack McGrath showed up.
    Tom O'Toole's potential was spotted very early on. He was 19 when he got his senior cap at tighthead.
    Robert Baloucoune established himself as first choice 11 in less than a season.
    if Angus Curtis and Rob Lyttle weren't always injured, they'd be integral parts of the squad.
    There's a healthy number of important wins against good teams in there, with the weans in key positions. Michael Lowry, for example, has played in a PRO14 quarter final, two PRO14 semi finals and a European quarter final. Presumably this season he'll also play in a Pro14 final and an European quarter final (at least) as well.
    It really feels like we are building a squad, with youngsters that are being properly eased in.


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,678 ✭✭✭✭Interested Observer

    There are some quality players there, Balacoune for example is class imo, but are there enough of them? I think it's going to be key to a strong Ulster, the quality of signing has diminished a bit compared to say 10 years ago (seems to be the case for everyone except Munster) so it's key that these young guys come through.

  • Registered Users Posts: 17,635 ✭✭✭✭bilston

    There are some quality players there, Balacoune for example is class imo, but are there enough of them? I think it's going to be key to a strong Ulster, the quality of signing has diminished a bit compared to say 10 years ago (seems to be the case for everyone except Munster) so it's key that these young guys come through.

    We'll never have as many as Leinster, but there is another group bubbling under nicely as well as those listed above.

    Paul mentioned the likes of Moore, Allison, Rea Jnr and McIlroy who have had cameos and at least two of them are destined for big things IMO.

    But even behind that you have Callum Reid, Tom Stewart, David McCann, Lewis Finlay, Hayden Hyde and Aaron Sexton, all of whom have featured heavily for Ireland U20s (Ireland 7s in the case of Sexton).

    Then even behind you have Reuben Crothers and Nathan Doak who by all accounts are ones to watch.

    They won't all make it, but I think our Academy and Sub Academy is working well and we are hopefully beginning to see some reward from it.

    We're doing alright, but they have to keep it up.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,113 ✭✭✭Paul Smeenus

    It's a fair question - I'd hope so. These are the guys starting, right now, in our biggest matches - there's a raft of younger lads below them again.

    When this season is over, I'll start a thread about what we hope for next season from our younger and wider squad members.

    But in the meantime, the other factor to take into consideration is; who are we actually likely to lose at the end of next season? (20/21) Who needs replaced, short of some kind of career-finishing injury or form falling off a cliff?

    By the end of spring 2021, Ludik. That's it really. Reidy will be 32, but still contracted. Jack McGrath will be 31, Herring will be 31, as will Jordi Murphy. Cooney, Moore, Coetzee, and Gilroy will be 30. Madigan will be 32, but he's only here for a year anyway.

    The areas of concern, where we need players to break through ASAP, are scrumhalf (assuming Mathewson is off after this year) and maybe front row, although Milasoivnich may be handy enough. Apart from Henderson, our second rows aren't brilliant, but we've got a few more years out of all of them apart for Carter, who can sling his hook anyway, for all he's delivered for us. We have really talented youngsters at nine but one of them needs to have replaced Shanahan as third choice by the end of the season, to be second choice after Alby goes. Loads of potential young back rows - we just need them to start lining out in Pro14 games (and we still have alternatives who are grand for Pro14 games like Timoney).