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Chris Henry in awe of raucous welcome at Kingspan Stadium

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Iain Henderson is tackled by Matthew Rees

Iain Henderson is tackled by Matthew Rees

Iain Henderson is tackled by Matthew Rees

It was hardly surprising that the noise rocked the Kingspan Stadium to its foundations when Chris Henry made his entrance just before the hour mark against the Cardiff Blues last night.

Four months out after his mini-stroke and heart surgery in November had put his career in the balance, the 30-year-old's recovery now looks complete and this was his special moment to embrace that feeling of playing again.

Clearly he cherished the opportunity even if it was a nervy 20 minutes for both the player and the team as they battled to secure the game.

"It was a very special night for me and it was an amazing noise and atmosphere when I came on the pitch," said a clearly relieved Henry afterwards. "And it was definitely something I won't be forgetting very quickly.

"For me it has been a rough four months but to get back earlier than expected (is great).

"Doaky (boss Neil Doak) said some really special words to me before the match and the support I've had from team-mates and coaches, my family and friends, it was just a special night for me.

"Ultimately I'm glad it's done, there were so many nerves and I'm glad it's behind me."

The Ireland flanker could only admit that the game appeared to be on a knife-edge when he entered the fray with Ulster about to ship their second try to the Blues.

"It was on the edge and Darren (Cave) spoke after the game about how all the bench did. All the subs brought energy, which is what we had talked about.

"Hopefully this will be a springboard for us and everyone is really determined to achieve what we can this year," Henry added.

"We're in a good place and in general this was what Doaky wanted and it gives us something to work on and we have to be reasonably happy with that.

"I found it tough, very tough. You can do as much work in the gym but you can't replicate a match. It was about managing the nerves and just getting through.

"The pace was tough and it's going to take me a while to get used to it."

It was good to get the win but even better to see him back again.

Belfast Telegraph