The best Ulster XV of the professional era, selected by a panel of rugby journalists for the ‘Your Club Your Country’ fund-raising initiative, has been revealed.
And Dollingstown woman Linda Smith has won a brand new car, donated by the Donnelly Motor Group, after agreeing with 14 of the panel’s 15 players.
Indeed, Ulster’s female supporters were well to the fore in collecting the goodies.
Over 3,483 tickets were sold by the participating clubs, raising a £34,830 to date for grassroots rugby.
That prompted Ulster’s domestic rugby manager David Boyd to say: “At the launch of this competition I stated that this was a unique opportunity for clubs to raise much-needed funds thanks to the generous support of the Donnelly Group and the IRFU who provided the major prizes.
“The outcome has been that the participating clubs are collectively better off by in excess of £34,000 and this amount is anticipated to rise when all club declarations have been received.
“In the current economic climate these funds are greatly appreciated and on behalf of the clubs I thank the Donnelly Group and the IRFU for making this competition possible.”
Each of the Ulster Branch’s 44 registered clubs was invited to sell a maximum of 800 £10 tickets — with all of the money raised going towards rugby’s development.
The writers’ panel XV was: Simon Mason; Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Bell, Paddy Wallace, Tyrone Howe; David Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best, Simon Best; Johann Muller, Jeremy Davidson; Stephen Ferris, Andy Ward, Tony McWhirter.
The media panel named 1999 European Cup winner Harry Williams as the man to coach the fictitious side, and made current Ulster skipper Johann Muller their captain.
With the Donnelly Group donating the top prize, the IRFU put up a range of rugby packages and tickets for the best of the rest and the winners were:
2. Valerie Stewart: a VIP package for two (including flights, accommodation and match tickets for the Italy v Ireland 2013 Six Nations match at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.
3. Francis Grimley: A VIP package for two (including flights, accommodation and match tickets) for the Scotland v Ireland 2013 Six Nations match at Murrayfield, Edinburgh.
4. Patricia Carlisle: A VIP package for two (including flights accommodation and match tickets) for the Wales v Ireland 2013 6 Nations match at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
5. Jonathan Millar: A VIP package for two (including pre-match lunch, post-match reception and match tickets) for the Ireland v England 2013 Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
6. Rory Winters: A VIP package for two (including pre match lunch, post match reception and match tickets) for the Ireland v France 2013 6 Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
7. Jim Gould: A corporate box for 14 people at Ravenhill for the Ulster v Zebre match on February 15 (food and beverages not included).
8. Paddy Bell, Steven McCulloch, Paul Montgomery, Paul Megoran, Steven Swann, Rosey Bell, Charlie Preece (seven separate prize-winners): An Ulster Rugby home shirt signed by the current squad.