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Ulster’s 1999 Heroes: Where Are They Now?

Ulster’s 1999 Heroes: Where Are They Now?

Building up to today’s exhibition match and celebration dinner in Belfast, Ulster Rugby has taken a look at where the province’s European Cup final-winning squad from 1999 are now.

Full-Back: Simon Mason

After 1999, Simon spent a number of seasons with Stade Francais and Benetton Treviso. He returned to the UK as a player coach with Orrell, and spent his last playing days at National North 3 side Caldy. Simon is now teaching at his old school, St Anselms Liverpool, and has become a director of rugby for Alsemians.

Winger: Andy Park

Being one of the younger 1999 players, Andy was the life and soul of the winning squad. He played rugby with Ulster until 2000, after which he continued to play for Belfast Harlequins. Andy now runs an advertising agency, INC Advertising..

Centre: Jan Cunningham

Jan played for Ulster until 2003, when he was released from contract, but continued to play for and captain Dungannon. He is now working as a solicitor with Millar McCall Wylie, specialising in employment law.

Centre: Jonathan Bell

Jonathan battled with a number of injuries and finally retired from professional rugby in 2005. He continued his studies, achieving a PGCE, and taught at Campbell College. Jonathan was appointed to the role of Elite Player Development Officer for Ulster Rugby in August 2008, and continues to coach for Dungannon RFC.

Winger: Sheldon Coulter

Sheldon played for Ulster until 2003, but continued to play club rugby for Belfast Harlequins, CIYMS and Portadown. He is now a financial advisor for Don Robinson Financial Services.

Out-Half: David Humphreys

David retired from Ulster Rugby last summer after battling with numerous injuries. However, having been a loyal Ulster player for over ten years, he remains very much part of the Ulster Rugby family since his appointment as Operations Director of Ulster Rugby in May 2008.

Scrum Half: Andy Matchett

After playing for Ulster, Andy continued to play locally for Belfast Harlequins. He now works in insurance, with Clerical Medical.

Prop: Justin Fitzpatrick

Justin still plays for Ulster, having left the province in 2002 to spend two seasons with Castres Olympique. He returned in 2005 and has won over 140 caps for Ulster in total. He has also won an ERC Elite award for making over 50 Heineken Cup appearances.

Hooker: Allen Clarke

After a major ankle injury, Allen left professional rugby and was appointed as Elite Player Development Manager with the Ulster Rugby Academy. In 2007 he became assistant coach to Mark McCall and after three seasons of rugby, he moved on to his current position as High Performance Manager for the IRFU.

Prop: Rab Irwin

Rab finished playing for Ulster soon after the 1999 victory and continued his trade as a self-employed builder. He continued to play rugby for C.I. and is now still playing for Ards RFC.

Second Row: Mark Blair

Mark played for Ulster until 2003 and then moved to French club Narbonne. After a number of successful seasons, he moved to Scottish side Borders, and finally retired from professional rugby soon after. Mark is still living in Scotland and works in the building trade.

Second Row: Gary Longwell

Gary became an established international player after the 1999 season, winning 26 caps for Ireland and 152 caps for Ulster in total. He retired in 2005 and was appointed as High Performance Manager for the Ulster Rugby Academy, based at the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland in Jordanstown.

Blindside Flanker: Stephen McKinty

As one of the few part-time rugby players in the 1999 squad, Stephen worked for FG Wilson during the triumphant season. Post Ulster Rugby, Stephen continued to play for Bangor RFC.

Openside Flanker: Andy Ward

Andy continued to be a major player in Ulster Rugby up until his retirement in 2005, when he then went on to coach and play for Belfast Harlequins. Andy currently runs his own gym, Andy Ward Leisure, and plays club rugby for Ballynahinch RFC.

Number 8: Tony McWhirter

Tony won 94 caps for Ulster and achieved numerous caps for the Ireland ‘A’ team. A dentist by profession, he continued his vocation throughout his rugby career. After a hand injury in 2004, Tony decided to hang up his boots and concentrate on his dentistry career full-time. Tony is still practising dentistry in Ballymoney, but coaches rugby part-time at Dalriada School.

Prop: Gary Leslie

Gary continued to play for Dungannon after his career ended with Ulster and has spent a term as Dungannon RFC’s President. He is currently the representative for the club on the IRFU Branch Committee and continues to work for Moy Park.

Hooker: Richard Weir

After his professional rugby career, Richard continued to play for Belfast Harlequins and Cooke RFC. He is currently an officer with the Metropolitan Police in London.

Second Row: Stewart Duncan

After his success with Ulster, Stewart continued to play for Malone RFC until 2003. He currently works for a plumbing supplies company, Beggs and Partners, in Belfast.

Back Row: Derek Topping

Derek was one of the senior members of the 1999 squad and was a stalwart for Ballymena RFC, where he captained until injury forced him to retire from the game. He is now working as a medical rep.

Scrum Half: Stephen Bell

Stephen moved from Ulster to Bedford where he experienced a number of back injuries and was unable to continue his playing career. He moved from Bedford to Cambridge RFC as a player-coach before injury led to his retirement. Stephen is now working as a personal fitness trainer in Fitspace on the Boucher Road, Belfast.

Full-Back: Bryn Cunningham

Bryn finished his studies in Dublin before joining the 1999 squad as one of its youngest players. He has been a permanent fixture on the Ulster Rugby squad since then, winning over 140 caps for the province to date.

Full-Back: Stan McDowell

After his days with Ulster Rugby, Stan continued to play for Ballymena and CIYMS and took up coaching for CIYMS and Ards. Stan developed a career as an estate agent and now lives in Dublin.