Jump to main content


Ulster Side Shows Ten Changes For First Festive Interpro

Ulster Side Shows Ten Changes For First Festive Interpro

Young tighthead prop Tom O'Toole is pictured in action during last season's Guinness PRO14 final against Leinster ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

There are ten personnel changes to the Ulster team to play Connacht in Sunday’s Guinness PRO14 festive derby match at the Sportsground (kick-off 7.35pm).

Head coach Dan McFarland has a high number of players unavailable this week, with injury ruling out the likes of Iain Henderson, Sean Reidy and Marcell Coetzee, while Rob Herring, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale and Stuart McCloskey are rested via the IRFU Player Management Programme.

Regular full-back Michael Lowry is joined in the back-three by Craig Gilroy and Academy talent Ethan McIlroy, who will make his third PRO14 start of the current campaign.

McCloskey’s place in midfield is taken by the returning Stewart Moore, who is reunited with fellow youngster James Hume. Half-backs Ian Madigan and Alby Mathewson are both promoted from the bench.

In the forwards, there are first starts of the season for props Kyle McCall and Tom O’Toole, either side of John Andrew. Captain Alan O’Connor has the returning Kieran Treadwell alongside him in the second row.

Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney are retained in the back row from the last-gasp Heineken Champions Cup defeat in Gloucester. Reidy’s injury-enforced absence is covered by Greg Jones, who makes his second start of the season at blindside flanker.

With promising back Ben Moxham poised to make his senior debut as a replacement, flanker Murphy said: “We have to look at the first couple of games in front of us and try to build a bit of good form and boost our morale through that.

“Any time I’ve gone there (the Sporstground), it’s been around Christmas or New Year. We’ve talked this week about being able to control situations and our own frame of mind as obviously there’s a lot of outside noise when it comes to Christmas.

“But we’re professionals and we know that we’re going to be playing around this time of year. It’s about being able to manage Christmas Day, switch off and then come back in and just be able to switch back on and know that you really have to go and do a job.

“It’s quite tribal down there (in Galway), and I know there won’t be crowds now but it’s a bit of a fortress for them, and they earmark these games around Christmas when they get teams down to the Sportsground.

“We’re really going to have to have our ‘A’ game going down there as I’ve been down a few times and come out the wrong side of it and it’s not a great feeling. It can kind of make or break your Christmas.”

ULSTER (v Connacht): Michael Lowry; Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy; Ian Madigan, Alby Mathewson; Kyle McCall, John Andrew, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor (capt), Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Andrew Warwick, Martin Moore, David O’Connor, Matthew Rea, David Shanahan, Ben Moxham, Matt Faddes.