South African bound Stephen Ferris stole the show at the Magners Ulster Rugby Awards in Belfast last night.
Ulster’s sole Lion was named as the Ulster Rugby Writers Player of the Year
It was a glittering night when the great and good of Ulster rugby came out to celebrate the many achievements of both teams and individuals.
Ferris, a former pupil of Friends School, was a member of Ireland’s 2007 World Cup squad as well as the 2008 summer tour of Australia and New Zealand.
“This is a tremendous honour and one I wasn’t expecting, but I’m accepting it on behalf of all the players I’ve played with,” he said
One of the most affable and amenable players in the sport, his stunning form and sheer consistency has been a huge plus for both Ulster and Ireland.
“The past 12 months have been unbelievable. Everything has happened so quickly.
“But you have to enjoy when it comes along as you mightn’t have it again.
“Next week I’m off to England to join up with the rest of the Lions squad and when I return home I’ll have a month off and so be able to reflect on all that has happened.
“The biggest plus for me this season was staying free of injury. The previous year I sustained a knee injury with Ireland in Argentina and had to undergo two operations which effectively kept me out for nearly half a season,” he said.
Ferris was a member of Ireland’s 2007 World Cup squad, but like so many others had to be content with a place on the bench as coach Eddie O’Sullivan stayed true to the old guard.
It wasn’t the greatest tour ever undertaken by Ireland, but big Ferris returned home a wiser man. Last summer though was in total contrast. Alan Quinlan withdrew from the tour of Australia and Stephen made the most of his call up.
“In the first 15 minutes of our match against the Aussies, Shane Jennings wrecked his ribs in the first 15 minutes and I got on and played really well.
“Declan Kidney then gave in a chance in last autumn’s international and I never looked back,” he said.
It was a memorable night too for Ballynahinch. In addition to being named club of the year, flanker Willie Faloon and Chris Stevenson were also honoured.
CALOR GAS YOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Stephen Irvine (Banbridge)
NORTHERN BANK ULSTER SCHOOLS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Niall Annett (MCB)
PHOENIX ACADEMY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Willie Faloon (Ballynahinch)
KUKURI CLUB OF THE YEAR: Ballynahinch
DORRINGTON B FAULKNER AWARD FOR SERVICES TO RUGBY, PRESENTED BY PERRENIALS RFC: William|Davidson, Armagh
ULSTER BANK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Rory Best
KEN GOODALL AWARD FOR CLUB PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chris Stevenson
ULSTER BANK SPECIAL MERIT AWARD: City of Derry
VODAFONE YOUNG ULSTER PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Darren Cave
MAGNERS ULSTER RUGBY PERSONALTY OF THE Year: Stephen Ferris