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Paddy Johns takes over at Dungannon

By Michael Sadlier

Former Ireland captain Paddy Johns is returning to his rugby roots after being unveiled as Dungannon’s new head coach for next season.

Johns, who also skippered Ulster and Dungannon in a notable playing career, returns to Stevenson Park to replace fellow club stalwart Justin Fitzpatrick who has departed after three years at the helm.

Fitzpatrick’s assistant coach Kieran Campbell — another former Ulster player who wore the club’s colours with distinction — has also left the AIL Division 1B outfit as 44-year-old Johns takes over.

Dungannon — who missed out on securing promotion to the top flight’s upper tier last season — have made considerable progress under the guidance of Fitzpatrick and the club has seen a raft of young players such as Paddy Jackson, Ali Birch, Chris Farrell, Peter Nelson, Conor Gaston and Chris Cochrane all make their mark in an Ulster shirt.

Johns, who has not coached at this level, faces quite a challenge to drive forward Dungannon’s ambition to make the very top flight of AIL rugby and the 59-times capped Ireland player was quick to praise his predecessors' achievements on taking charge.

“Justin and Kieran have been great servants to Dungannon over the past decade, both as players and as coaches,” Johns, who also played at Saracens during his lengthy career, said.

“The time, effort and commitment both men have shown during their time at the club is truly enormous and I wish them both the very best for the future.

“We have a fantastic group of people at Dungannon Rugby Club both on and off the field,” he stated.

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