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Chris Henry: Irish pro game continues to get even stronger

Brian McLaughlin

The disappointing Six Nations may have put a few doubts in the mind of the public, but the PRO14 tables once again show the state of the pro game in Irish Rugby is in rude health.

We've already had one interprovincial derby at the sharp end of European competition and could yet have another depending on how Leinster and Munster get on in their semi-finals this weekend.

And we're already guaranteed one in the PRO14 with Ulster taking on Connacht.

Moreover, it means that all four provinces have qualified on merit for the top tier of Europe and that's not to be sniffed at. Locally, there was reason to cheer too with Ballynahinch securing promotion to the top tier of the All Ireland League.

It's been a few years since we had an Ulster team in 1A and to win the division outright really is a great achievement. Fair play to my old Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin and everyone at the club. With Malone in the play-offs, the Creagagh Red Sox could yet be joining them. We'll be travelling to UCC which will be tough but there's still the belief that we can pull it off.

Getting ready to take over as head coach next season is already keeping me plenty busy, and no matter what division it is, I'm excited to get properly stuck in.

Belfast Telegraph