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McCall Resigns As Ulster Coach

McCall Resigns As Ulster Coach

Ulster Rugby has confirmed this morning (Tuesday) that Mark McCall has resigned from his post as the province’s head coach, with immediate effect.

McCall, who was appointed to the head coaching role in the summer of 2004, has been under pressure following Ulster’s recent run of poor form culminating in last Friday’s 32-14 Heineken Cup defeat to Gloucester. The 39-year-old officially tendered his resignation yesterday evening.

Ulster Rugby chief executive Michael Reid held a press conference today at Ravenhill at which he formally announced the resignation of Mark McCall and read the following statement.

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“Mark McCall tendered his resignation to myself and chairman Cecil Watson yesterday evening. This offer was considered and accepted with regret by the Professional Team Management Committee later last night. I have met this morning with Steve Williams who has taken charge of team affairs with immediate effect.

“The poor results this season have been very difficult for us all and ultimately have brought us to where we are today, however, I believe strongly that the following is recorded,” he said.

“Mark McCall has been an outstanding committed coach for Ulster. Meticulous in his preparation, he endeavoured to create an environment of empowerment for the players. During his three years in the job, nine players received international recognition, a greater number of new caps than at any stage since the game turned professional, and an achievement which was down to the player identification and hard work of Mark and Allen Clarke.

“Over the weekend, one Sunday one paper quite rightly stated that “if Mark McCall came into work any earlier he would meet himself leaving.” His drive, passion and enthusiasm for Ulster Rugby is immense.

“Mark McCall took on this job at a time when there was little money available in comparison to England and France with their owners and major commercial backing. He has worked hard to deliver a competitive team on what has not been a level playing field.

“The undoubted highlight of Mark’s tenure as coach was our Celtic League win in 2006, such a success over a full season of rugby was a remarkable feather in his cap, and a personal success of which he was justifiably proud.

“I have had the pleasure of watching Mark McCall grow from Ulster player to assistant coach to head coach, and would like to thank him personally and on behalf of the chairman and the PTMC for his time with Ulster Rugby. The Professional Team Management Committee will now commence the process of recruitment for a permanent coach,” he added.

A former Ireland centre, McCall captained Ulster during the early part of their European Cup winning campaign in 1999 until a neck injury forced him to retire prematurely from the game.

He was immediately drafted into the Ulster coaching set-up where he assisted head coach Harry Williams during the rest of the 1998/99 season and throughout 1999/00, as well as coaching club side Ballynahinch.

McCall remained with Ulster during Alan Solomons’ tenure at Ravenhill and also assisted Matt Williams coaching Ireland “A” for two seasons. He was appointed as the Ireland Under-21 coach at the start of the 2003/04 season and took up his current role with Ulster Rugby in July 2004.

In a statement, McCall said that he had been privileged to have coached the province that he had played for.

“Over the last three and a half years it has been an absolute privilege for me to have been coach of the Ulster team. Winning the Celtic League two seasons ago was a huge highlight and it has been very rewarding to watch the Ulster representation in the Irish squad rise year on year,” he admitted.

“During my time I have received fantastic support from the Ulster Branch and I am grateful to have worked with a very professional management team who have become friends as well as colleagues. I believe the time is right for someone else to take the team forward and I would like to wish all concerned every success in the future.”

– The Ulster players capped by Ireland during Mark McCall’s time as coach were: Bryan Young, Rory Best, Matt McCullough, Roger Wilson, Neil Best, Stephen Ferris, Isaac Boss, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble