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'I want to be the best': Jame Hume focused on progress as memories of strange Ulster debut return

Ulster centre has made shirt his own after hammering by Munster


Key role: James Hume is now an Ulster regular and hoping for a vastly different outcome against Munster tomorrow

Key role: James Hume is now an Ulster regular and hoping for a vastly different outcome against Munster tomorrow

Key role: James Hume is now an Ulster regular and hoping for a vastly different outcome against Munster tomorrow

It was the very stuff of dreams, but then, again, it also wasn't.

Confused? This will always remain as one of those awkward moments when it comes round to James Hume's turn to reminisce about his senior Ulster debut.

Just 22 days after leaving his teenage years behind him, the centre was on the bench at Thomond Park in late September 2018 and, though he got on late in the game, this occasion will always be recalled as anything but the day Hume got to run out and play.

Funnily enough, it's the same situation with Michael Lowry, the pair of them, three-time Schools' Cup winners with RBAI - then coached by Dan Soper - claiming their first caps on that pretty grim trip to Limerick.

But this clash with Munster, Dan McFarland's fifth competitive game in charge at Kingspan Stadium, hit the record books at Ulster but for all the wrong reasons.

Munster quite simply obliterated a not exactly full strength Ulster to the tune of 64-7, the province's heaviest league defeat, and the concession of nine tries to the men in red as well as eight conversions was only equalled by the Cheetahs at the start of last season in Bloemfontein when Ulster went down 63-26.

Interestingly, that thumping in South Africa saw Hume score his first Ulster try so, well, there is form when it comes to special moments in the shirt.

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So, it doesn't sit too comfortably with Hume as, though his debut was naturally something that was of immense value to him, the backdrop was just awful, and his special moment just had to be more internalised than maybe he would have liked.

"It was a real tough one because we got absolutely pumped," he says with a half-smile in a game which actually saw now team-mate Alby Mathewson turn out for a pretty mean-looking Munster outfit.

"You've just put on an Ulster jersey for the first time and it's a childhood dream, so it was a really weird one.

"Everyone was so annoyed and distraught, but I was like between being happy and also being annoyed.

"It was definitely a bit of a strange one, and then we lost the next week to Connacht at home and that was a shocker too," he recalls of the time the westerners ended their 58-year hoodoo by winning in Belfast.

Probably wondering if he might be a bit jinxed as well, Hume had to wait until four games later before his first Ulster starting spot and, at last, he experienced an entirely positive outcome.

"So the real first good memory was my first start against Treviso," he explains of a game Ulster won by 15-10 in northern Italy.

Since then - leaving aside the Cheetahs' beating - Hume has largely thrived when deployed in Ulster's midfield to become a regular on Dan McFarland's starting side and, at the end of last season, in August to be exact, and, so far this season, has made the No.13 shirt his own and forged useful midfield combinations with both Stuart McCloskey and the emerging Stewart Moore.

His pace and vision for the line was marvellously showcased early in last September's Guinness PRO14 final with Leinster when Hume, off an Alan O'Connor pass, raced through a gap and got all the way to the line.

"I saw it in the first two minutes and it came off," he says.

Hume's not short of confidence, but then belief is key to pushing on and he is eager to learn.

"That was the goal at the start of the season," he says of being a regular starter.

"I wanted to start at 13, I wanted to take that jersey so I feel like I'm on the road to being there.

"I'll hopefully stay injury free and keep working on my defence with JP (Jared Payne) and my attack with Peely (Dwayne Peel).

"I feel since I've started a couple of games and got comfortable, and then we're winning - but I'm not in any position to take that for granted.

"I want to get better, I want to be the best, so that's something I'm really driving at the minute."

He can definitely go further as Ulster begin 2021 with another Munster clash.

Belfast Telegraph

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