While observers drool about the achievements of our provincial rival, Ulster’s best season for over a decade has certainly not gone unnoticed.
For too long, Ulster supporters have had to content themselves with a season that is effectively over by the Six Nations. Therefore, proper rugby right into May has given us all plenty to cheer about and has put Ulster back on the map of Northern Hemisphere rugby.
At the start of this season, David Humphreys told us that this was the best group of players in his time involved with Ulster. The results have shown this to be true.
Undoubtedly, much of the reason for this is the South African connection. It might have cost them a few quid but Ulster have bought well. Added to this is the emergence of some exciting local talent with Nevin Spence consistently to the fore.
Too many players over the last few years have not displayed the level of improvement that we might have expected.
Often the second season is the hardest, so for Spence and his young cohorts, they must work even harder on their games, and be seen to be better players. The honours will come in good time.
With most of the squad remaining and top signings Ulster should be in an even stronger position to challenge next season. The Heineken Cup has given all involved a measure of where they are on this journey and how they have to play to reach new heights.
While the supporters will want the same again only better, more important is that the players’ expectations have risen.
Through their efforts they have been given a taste of the big time in domestic and European competition.
There is more to come from this Ulster team, and there are few names to fear when the 2011/12 Heineken Cup draw takes place on June 7.