Ulster’s Celtic League title

Some belated recognition for the [url=http://www.ulsterrugby.com]Ulster rugby[/url] team that won the [url=http://www.celticleague.com]Celtic League[/url] on Friday 26 May with a nail biting 17-19 victory against the Ospreys in Swansea.

The competition came down to a two horse race between Ulster and fellow Irish province Leinster, with Ulster needing a win to finish on top. The title was heading for Leinster after the Ospreys took the lead with 5 minutes of normal time left. However three minutes later, the Ulster out half David Humphreys kicked a long range drop goal that hit both uprights before going over, to give Ulster the victory and the league.

Ulster is the first Irish winner of the Celtic League in its current format as a full home-and-away competition with 20 fixtures. Leinster and Munster won the competition in 2002 and 2003 when the format was group stages followed by knock-out.

The win means Ulster is now the most successful Irish province in terms of silverware with a European Cup in 1999, Celtic Cup in 2003, Celtic League in 2006 and this year Ulster also won the trophy for the best supported team in the Celtic League for the third season running.

Ulster’s average home gates for Celtic League games grew 37% from last season to 9,182.

If success continues on the field, how long before Ulster’s beloved, but ramshackle home Ravenhill, is sold out for every game? This would have been unthinkable for provincial or club rugby games a few years ago, but is already a regular occurance with a number of clubs in the English Guinness Premiership.

The game against the Ospreys was in Swansea’s impressive new Liberty Stadium. The Liberty seats 20,280 in contrast with Ravenhill’s current capacity of 12,300 but it is not just in Ireland that new stadia are fraught with issues, as revealed in [url=http://tinyurl.com/epbvt]this report[/url] from Wales about the Liberty’s finances.

  • Lafcadio

    A good outcome to the season, which has seen the Ulster team settle down in terms of selection and results – following on from a disappointing 2005 where discontent with the new coaching team was building, and the “development and transition” excuses were starting to look a bit threadbare..

    Positives – 1) young players coming through, Stephen Ferris grew in stature and influence, eventually keeping McMillan on the bench, Andrew Trimble probably the find of northern hemisphere rugby this season and Bryan Young quietly but every bit as effectively imposed himself; 2) imports delivering, Isaac Boss looking classy after a difficult start to the season, Justin Harrison probably the player of the CL, galvanising the Ulster front five into one of the tightest units in the league; 3) away record, we went from hardly winning at all away from Ravenhill to an unprecedented unbeaten away record in Wales & Scotland.

    All that however shouldn’t gloss over a disappointing exit from the Heineken Cup, albeit against Biarritz, probably the toughest home & away proposition in Europe (and yes I’m including Munster, who we beat home and away!!). Progress here is an absolute necessity – and reading between the lines of communications from Mike Reid, I’d say that McCall is in no illusions about continued failure in Europe.. Hopefully next year, first-seeding in Europe will give us a marginally more favourable draw..

  • carlosblancos

    Hmm, firstly I’ll plead ignorance about rugby, and second I’ll admit confusion. There’s seems to be various leagues/cups/league cups set up over the years. Hard to fathom historically who does better than what as far as I can see.

  • SpiceGirls

    About time the Ulster Men received some recognition. Rugby is the only fully Professional sport played in Ireland, yet when Ulster win the Celtic League it gets barely a mention in the local media. BBC wales show live welsh games week in, week out, yet BBC Nortehrn Ireland can;t even show the Celtic League decider – outrageous!
    Ulster has come a long way in the past 10 years, we now have a fully professional outfit, with players from the likes of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. At 10 quid a ticket, with a team of internationals – it’s hard to beat!
    c’mon Ulster!!

  • Michael Robinson

    carlosblancos – the rugby competitions for professional provincial teams in Ireland are as follows:

    The Celtic League is a league for 11 clubs and provinces in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

    The Celtic Cup was a knock-out cup competition for the Celtic League teams – however it is now defunct.

    The European Cup (currently sponsored by Heineken) is a competition for 24 teams in the Celtic League countries plus England, France and Italy.

    The European Challenge Cup is a competition for 20 teams from the same countries as the European Cup. The Challenge Cup is a “second division” trophy, in a similar way the UEFA cup is to the Champions League in football.

    The trophy cabinets for the Irish provinces since the advent of professionalism have contained the following:

    Ulster:
    1 European Cup
    1 Celtic Cup
    1 Celtic League
    3 Celtic League Best Supported team trophies

    Munster:
    1 European Cup
    1 Celtic Cup
    1 Celtic League

    Leinster:
    1 Celtic League

    Connacht:
    nothing (as yet…)

  • Donnacha

    I was delighted with how Ulster went this year and it’s heartening to see the preponderance of Ulster and Munster players touring NZ at the moment. WIth the All Blacks experimenting with dual line-ups, this could be Ireland’s best chance to finally put one past the ABs. And in their own back yard, too. I remain unfamiliarly confident about it all and have secured tickets to both tests, and intend to be the loudest and most annoying Irishman in the country after Ireland win. And strangely enough, the anti-spam word is ATTACK…..

  • Chris Donnelly

    Michael

    Thanks for the post. I have often wondered about the attendance Ulster matches were attracting- in and around 10,000 is quite impressive, and it makes you wonder how much potential there might be if the venue was a more modern and accessible one.

    Clearly the professional move has been good for Irish rugby. Each year brings realistic hopes of Celtic League and European success, with Irish teams uniquely taking their place at the top table of an international sport.

    I also believe the TV exposure- first from TG4 and now from Setanta- has been good for Irish provincial rugby.