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Volunteers like Barney are why game is so strong

It was a pleasure to feel like my career had come somewhat full circle on Thursday night as I was asked to present the Dorrington B Faulkner award to Barney McGonigle at the Ulster Rugby end of season awards.

Barney has been synonymous with Ulster schoolboys' rugby for more than three decades now and when I first came across him it was as manager of the Irish Schools' team which he later told me I'd be captaining.

Those were great memories for me, playing alongside the likes of Andrew Trimble and Kevin McLaughlin as we won all our three games.

Barney has been a familiar face since then and I'd say that every homegrown Ulster talent has been under his watchful eye at some stage or the other.

A de facto talent scout at under-age level, he's just the sort of volunteer you need to keep the game going.

Another great thing from the night was to see players from clubs right across the province getting recognition. We've already seen the likes of Donegal native Joe Dunleavy coming through from Letterkenny and encouraging these pathways really is vital for the future.

Belfast Telegraph