Ulster leavers share memories

Published Thursday, 22 May 2014
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Ulster may have missed out on silverware this season - but those leaving are taking plenty of good memories with them.

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Paddy Wallace has been forced to retire after 13 years at Ravenhill due to an ongoing knee injury.

The 34-year-old has set up the Paddy Wallace Rugby Academy and hopes to stay involved with Ulster Rugby.

"I have helped out on the sidelines over the last few months, there's nothing planned yet to stay on but I would love to be part of the backroom team at some stage," he said.

"My standout memory from my time at Ulster was winning the league back in 2003/04. That kick started my international career and I have many happy memories from my time at Ireland, especially winning the Grand Slam in 2009.

"It's been a frustrating few years for me with injuries and operations so it's a sad day that I have to hang up the boots - but my body can't take any more and I'm looking forward to finding the next Tommy Bowe or Paddy Jackson through my new academy."

World Cup winner John Afoa leaves Belfast for good on Thursday morning insisting he will miss Ravenhill.

The New Zealander has spent three years at Ulster and told UTV Sport that his happiest memory was beating Munster in the Heineken Cup quarter final in 2012.

"We were massive underdogs and I just remember everyone fell to their knees at the end and Stefan Terblanche walked around Thomond Park with an Ulster flag as if he'd won the game by himself!" joked Afoa.

"The changing rooms were amazing after that game and it stands out as my best time here."

Afoa admitted that his personal life has been hard since moving to Ulster after his wife and children failed to settle in Northern Ireland and returned to New Zealand.

"It has been really tough, at the start, we thought it sounded easy but being away from my young kids and wife for about a year and a half has been hard," he added.

"I will miss Ravenhill and the boys, it will be strange not seeing them every day but I'm looking forward to my new challenge at Gloucester."

Tom Court is moving to London Irish next season after eight years with Ulster.

"I don't think it will really sink in until we're away but I am very sad to be leaving," he told UTV Sport.

"I've made friends for life here and I take some great memories with me."

Court played for Ireland 32 times, but said the pinnacle of his career so far was his call up to the 2013 British and Irish Lions squad.

"The only thing that would've topped the Lions was if I had won Silverware with Ulster while I was here."

© UTV News
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