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Nevin Spence would have made it to highest level

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Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence who was killed, along with his father and brother in a farming accident

Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence who was killed, along with his father and brother in a farming accident

David Rogers

Book of condolence opened at Ravenhill rugby ground for Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence along with his brother Graham and father Noel who died in a slurry tank accident on the family farm outside Hillsborough in Co. Down.  Tributes placed at Ravenhill

Book of condolence opened at Ravenhill rugby ground for Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence along with his brother Graham and father Noel who died in a slurry tank accident on the family farm outside Hillsborough in Co. Down. Tributes placed at Ravenhill

Book of condolence opened at Ravenhill rugby ground for Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence along with his brother Graham and father Noel who died in a slurry tank accident on the family farm outside Hillsborough in Co. Down.  Tributes placed at Ravenhill

Book of condolence opened at Ravenhill rugby ground for Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence along with his brother Graham and father Noel who died in a slurry tank accident on the family farm outside Hillsborough in Co. Down. Tributes placed at Ravenhill

A painting of Nevin Spence by his sister Emma.

A painting of Nevin Spence by his sister Emma.

Book of condolence opened at Ravenhill rugby ground for Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence along with his brother Graham and father Noel who died in a slurry tank accident on the family farm outside Hillsborough in Co. Down.  Tributes placed at Ravenhill

Book of condolence opened at Ravenhill rugby ground for Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence along with his brother Graham and father Noel who died in a slurry tank accident on the family farm outside Hillsborough in Co. Down. Tributes placed at Ravenhill

Artist Emma Spence from Hillsborough County Down pictured at her studio in a barn at the rear of her father's farm.  ©Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland.25th February 2011

Artist Emma Spence from Hillsborough County Down pictured at her studio in a barn at the rear of her father's farm. ©Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland.25th February 2011

Pacemaker Press 17/9/2012    Graham Spence

Pacemaker Press 17/9/2012 Graham Spence

Graham Spence at his Hillsborough farm.

Graham Spence at his Hillsborough farm.

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Nevin Spence on the family farm.  Pacemaker press

Nevin Spence on the family farm. Pacemaker press

John Dickson

Ulster's Nevin Spence

Ulster's Nevin Spence

Darren Kidd

Nevin Spence, father Noel and brother Graham

Nevin Spence, father Noel and brother Graham

Nevin Spence playing for Ulster last December against the Scarletts

Nevin Spence playing for Ulster last December against the Scarletts

Darren Kidd

Nevin Spence at Ulster's summer camp

Nevin Spence at Ulster's summer camp

Brian Thompson

Nevin Spence in action for Ulster against Bath

Nevin Spence in action for Ulster against Bath

©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Nevin Spence with Ulster team-mate Nigel Brady back in December 2010

Nevin Spence with Ulster team-mate Nigel Brady back in December 2010

Darren Kidd

Nevin Spence relaxing down on the farm

Nevin Spence relaxing down on the farm

John Dickson

Nevin Spence (far left) with young Oscar Knox who suffers from a rare form of cancer

Nevin Spence (far left) with young Oscar Knox who suffers from a rare form of cancer

Gifted: Accident survivor Emma Spence on the family farm

Gifted: Accident survivor Emma Spence on the family farm

Emma Spence in her artist's studio

Emma Spence in her artist's studio

Emma Spence's portrait of brother Nevin on the rugby pitch

Emma Spence's portrait of brother Nevin on the rugby pitch

Ulster's Nevin Spence

Ulster's Nevin Spence

Horror: The Spence farm, where emergency services attended on Saturday night after four people were overcome by fumes

Horror: The Spence farm, where emergency services attended on Saturday night after four people were overcome by fumes

Horror: The Spence farm, where emergency services attended on Saturday night after four people were overcome by fumes

Horror: The Spence farm, where emergency services attended on Saturday night after four people were overcome by fumes

Darren Kidd

Tributes for Nevin Spence and his family left at Ravenhill

Tributes for Nevin Spence and his family left at Ravenhill

A family console each other while reading messages of condolence at the home of Ulster Rugby

A family console each other while reading messages of condolence at the home of Ulster Rugby

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Nevin Spence, who died alongside his father Noel and brother Graham

Nevin Spence, who died alongside his father Noel and brother Graham

Darren Kidd

Ulster's Nevin Spence

Ulster's Nevin Spence

Darren Kidd

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Tributes left at Ulster Rugby's home ground Ravenhill for Nevin Spence and his family.

Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence who was killed, along with his father and brother in a farming accident

Sometimes even words fail. The sudden and tragic death of Nevin Spence on the cusp of a hugely promising career for province and country has taken the wind out of our sails.

Ulster sport has been hit by tragedy in recent times. Think Tyrone footballer Cormac McAnallen in 2004 and Royal School Armagh flanker John McCall while representing Ireland against New Zealand at the Under 19 Rugby World Cup in South Africa some months before.

Losses impossible to bear for families and impossible to comprehend for team-mates, friends and foe alike; sudden cardiac arrest in what should be the prime of life. Details are still emerging as to what transpired on the Spence family farm in Hillsborough on Saturday evening last.

The exact sequence of events is not yet clear but hopefully the Health and Safety Executive, when it completes its investigations, will provide some solace for the surviving members of the Spence family.

For Nevin's Ulster team-mates, there are tough and challenging times in the days and weeks ahead. It's hard enough for any team in any sporting code when squad members retire, but that is part of the evolutionary process and accepted as such. Equally as difficult has been the curse in recent times of forced emigration the length and breadth of the land.

But sudden and tragic death leaves a painful void for team-mates that may never be filled. The young and talented former Wallace High School three-quarter was blessed with potential above the ordinary. Already part of Declan Kidney's extended national squad and having represented Ireland at two underage World Cups, he was as close as doesn't matter to the ultimate rugby honour.

He had played for the Wolfhounds (Ireland 'A') as well as being a member of the Ireland squad against the Barbarians in Gloucester (coming on as a replacement) prior to the New Zealand tour in May.

He was one of an exciting group of Ulster backs who emerged under Brian McLaughlin. These included Darren Cave; Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson; Paul Marshall; Ian Whitten; as well as Luke Marshall and the recently returned Niall O'Connor. Having been named IRUPA Young Player of the Year by his peers in 2011, Nevin, who had broken into the senior national squad, was a bundle of midfield energy primed to explode at the very top.

Alas, that will not now come to pass. Ulster and Irish rugby has been robbed of a burgeoning talent, but that pales into insignificance when weighed against the loss to his nearest and dearest.

All we can do is echo the words of Billy Glynn, president of the IRFU, in saying the thoughts of everybody involved in rugby on this island are with the Spence family. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.

Belfast Telegraph


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