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McLaughlin takes on leading role at Hinch

 

By Michael Sadlier

Former Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin will be joining Ballynahinch next season to head up a new coaching structure at the Co Down club, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

McLaughlin will hook up with Hinch as rugby consultant to the club with his remit to establish and oversee a fresh backroom set-up at Ballymacarn Park to maintain and improve their position in the top tier of the AIL.

The hugely experienced coach - who took Ulster to 2012's Heineken Cup final - will leave his current role at Armagh once their season comes to an end which could yet see them promoted to Division 2A should they come through the play-off process.

It represents quite a coup for Hinch to bring McLaughlin on board and he makes the move following long-serving coach Derek Suffern's decision to step aside.

McLaughlin, who worked as Ireland skills coach during Eddie O'Sullivan's time in charge, is no stranger to Ballymacarn Park having been involved with Hinch during their 'Grand Slam' season of 2008-09.

In a statement, the Co Down club said: "Brian will bring a unique skill-set given his unmatched rugby experience with Ulster and Ireland and also critically with the development of young rugby players.

"Brian will lead a review of all rugby activities within the club with a view to establishing a structure that allows the club to build on its position as the leading and most successful club in Ulster over recent times and also achieve a sustainable position within the top tier of All-Ireland club rugby".

McLaughlin joins Hinch after two years at Armagh where he was appointed as a coaching consultant. He is best known for his three-year stint in charge at Ulster which began in summer 2009.

Under McLaughlin, Ulster reached a PRO12 semi-final in 2011 and a Heineken Cup quarter-final in the same year before, 12 months later, making the European final where they lost to Leinster.

His tenure was controversially ended in 2012 and McLaughlin was replaced by Mark Anscombe but stayed in the Ulster framework as schools' academy coach before leaving in 2015.

At underage level, McLaughlin has coached at Ulster and Ireland level and also had notable Schools' Cup success at RBAI. He is currently involved with BRA.

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