Belfast Harlequins have confirmed that they have succeeded in holding onto all bar two of their current Ulster contracted-players for next season, with Exeter-bound duo Lewis Stevenson and John Andress the only players to leave.
Harlequins, who were disappointingly relegated from AIB League Division One in April, will hope to bounce straight back up to the top flight in 2008.
In a considerable boost to their promotion chances, contracted players Niall Conlon, Stuart Philpott, Paul Marshall, Niall O’Connor, Darren Cave, Paul McKenzie and Mark Kettyle have all agreed to stay with the club. ‘Quins have been extremely busy in their recruitment drive with nine players, including former Ulster and Newport Gwent Dragons centre Shane Stewart, agreeing to join the Deramore Park set-up for the 2007/08 campaign.
‘Quins’ new signings are as follows:
Craig Voisey (a 22-year-old prop from Bridgend Ravens RFC, who is a former Under-19 Irish Exiles and Welsh Universities player)
Neil McComb (a 23-year-old lock, a former Campbell College captain and Schools Cup winners. A former Ireland Under-21 international, he is returning home from University at Dundee)
Karl Trask (a 23-year-old scrum half, who is a former Otago Under-21 player. He has also represented Otago Universities and is a cousin of former Ulster player Rowan Frost)
Shane Stewart (a 28-year-old centre, who formerly played for Ulster and Newport Gwent Dragons)
Willem Slabbert (a 26-year-old Vodacom and Currie Cup player from South Africa, who is returning to the club)
Thomas Horner (a 24-year-old utility back. He is a former Irish Schools and Ulster Under-21 player who is returning from Malone RFC)
Peter Corbett (a 24-year-old lock who has played for Bangor RFC and the Ulster Junior side)
Alastair Heatlie (a number 8 from Selkirk RFC in Scotland)
Paul Minnis (a number 7 who is returning from Ards RFC)
In addition, Italian-capped lock Carlow Del Fava, who has signed for Ulster, and ex-Methody back Chris Quinn have been allocated to the club as additional contracted players.
Only two players are leaving ‘Quins to join other local clubs – Mike McKeever has returned to Instonians while Mike Graham will be lining out for Ballynahinch next season.