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Doak fired up to help Campbell kids fulfil potential

 

By Michael Sadlier

Former Ulster head coach Neil Doak has speedily moved on from being shown the exit door at the Kingspan Stadium and has been appointed as Performance and Development Manager for both rugby and cricket at Campbell College.

The axe at Ulster fell at season's end for the highly-rated Doak, who had responsibility for back play, and for forwards coach Allen Clarke as Director of Rugby Les Kiss chose to go for a coaching shake-up at the province with Kiwi Jono Gibbes and former Wales international Dwayne Peel brought onto the roster for next season.

The clear-out now looks like a make or break one for Kiss and the decision to change Ulster's backroom team came prior to the squad's dire end to the season.

Doak was a highly-regarded, and long-serving, coach in the Ulster set-up - with a 20-year association at the province as player and coach - who oversaw the squad's backline attacking plays, and the decision not to renew his contract did raise eyebrows in the squad.

While Clarke managed to hook up with the Ospreys and stay in the professional game, Doak has stayed local and, in addition to working with Campbell, the 44-year-old will also be closely involved in the coaching structure at Queen's University with the primary focus on the rugby club.

Speaking about his new role at Campbell, former cricket international Doak said: "The background that I have had in Ulster Rugby has given me the opportunity and exposure to develop younger players and bring them through the system.

"Campbell's strong reputation across rugby and cricket, alongside the college's aim to connect with talent in the wider community, provide a great opportunity for me and it is one I will relish."

He will be responsible for identifying and developing emerging cricket and rugby talent within the school, also with a view to bolstering the ranks.

While cricket is currently the priority for his role at the east Belfast school, Doak will also be focusing on boosting rugby at Campbell - the school last won the Schools' Cup back in 2011 - and will work alongside head of rugby Brian Robinson with a view to challenging RBAI's recent dominance.

"It's a well-established (rugby) programme under Brian Robinson and sometimes in those Schools' Cup games it's just fine margins. What I'll be looking to do is dovetail into that and try to bring a little bit of expertise in certain areas," said Doak.

"I have worked with Brian before and some of the other teachers so I'm really looking forward to it and it will be a really good dynamic. It will be good to be back coaching teams again.

"On the cricket side, I'm still playing a bit with the kids for Lisburn and it will be good to try and improve cricketing in Campbell, and with Ireland hopefully getting Test status in the near future there is an avenue through Campbell and Ulster and the NCU to go into the professional game."

Meanwhile, Ulster's game against the Barbarians on Thursday at the Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.30pm) will act as an important exercise in preparing for next season.

That was the message Kiss delivered as the province prepare for their final game and another last chance to bid farewell to Ruan Pienaar and Roger Wilson.

"The team are using this as a 'build' for next season and going up against some of the best players in the world can only help you as a player," he said.

Meanwhile, veteran prop Tom Court has announced his retirement from the game in the aftermath of helping London Irish return to the Aviva Premiership.

The 36-year-old signed for Ulster in 2006 and made 154 appearances before leaving in 2014.

Court played 32 times for Ireland and was part of the Grand Slam-winning squad of 2009.

He also appeared for the British and Irish Lions in 2014 after a shock call-up to the squad.

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