The news that Rory Best will miss the whole of the 2009/10 through injury is an awful blow, not just to the player obviously, but to Ulster Rugby for the forthcoming season.
The Irish international hooker looked set to play an integral role in new coach Brian McLaughlin's first season in charge at Ravenhill Road.
Ulster's operations director, David Humphreys, said Rory was suffering from an underlying chronic disc injury on his neck which requires surgery and a lengthy recovery period of between nine and 12 months.
“Obviously, losing Rory at the start of the season is a huge blow for us, not only is he our No 1 hooker but also our captain and one of the most experienced players in the squad,” Humphreys said.
“However, what is most important is Rory's long term health and welfare and there's no reason not to expect him to return fully to rugby, post surgery and rehabilitation, next season.”
“The timing of this injury presents difficulties as most players are contracted for the 09-10 season. While we strengthened our hooking options this summer with the signing of Andy Kyriacou, we are working at present to find a replacement for Rory within world rugby.”
Ulster, who face Newport Gwent Dragons in their opening Magners League game at Rodney Parade next month, will look to build on the work of former coach Matt Williams who left a very young squad in which to lay the foundations of what is hoped will be a new golden age for local rugby.
The loss of Best however is a set back that Ulster could have done without. Without their influential
skipper and first-choice hooker, Ulster will have to look to other leaders in the side that can drive them forward over the coming season in what will be a testing time for all involved at Ravenhill.
Rory, who was recently married, intends to take some holiday time prior to surgery to come to terms with his injury, and therefore was not available for comment at present. The date for the operation has not yet been set.
We wish him the best of luck in his operation and recuperation process.
l THE ugly side of local football reared its head at the weekend after Glentoran striker Gary Hamilton was attacked by a Portadown fan at Shamrock Park.
The incident occurred after the former Portadown player had scored a late winning goal in the Belfast side’s 2-1 win.
Lets hope the culprit is banned from grounds across the country once the local courts have dealt with him.
Irish League football has enough problems without idiots like this causing further untold damage.