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Kiss believes the future is bright at Kingspan as quartet pen new deals


By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster announced a raft of contract extensions yesterday with four members of the squad penning fresh deals. Lock Alan O'Connor, scrum-half Dave Shanahan and flanker Clive Ross have all committed until 2019, with hooker John Andrew signed up for a further year.

All four have featured for Les Kiss' senior side this season, with both O'Connor and Ross having been regulars over the last number of months.

O'Connor, originally from Dublin, moved north in 2012 after being spotted by Allen Clarke, while Cork native Ross made his 50th appearance for his adopted province last month having joined in 2014.

Shanahan, another Dubliner, started a pair of Champions Cup games this season for the side while Ruan Pienaar was out with a knee injury, with Andrew seen as a potential long-term successor to the 34-year-old Rory Best.

Kiss was thrilled with the news, believing that the retention of a deep pool of Irish-qualified talent will be imperative to any hopes his side have of finally securing silverware in the near future.

"We are delighted that the four boys have committed their immediate future to Ulster," said the Australian.

"As we continue to build our playing roster it is critical that we have depth across these key positions, so this is another important piece of business for us.

"John has worked his way through the development system here at Ulster and has been showing his full potential since he moved on to a full-time contract last year.

"He's a really intelligent player who has benefited greatly from working alongside the likes of Rory (Best) and Rob (Herring), not just in his skill development, but also in his leadership qualities, which he has displayed for Ulster 'A' this season.

"Clive and Alan are maturing into quality players and have been outstanding for us this season. Both lads put in a huge amount of work during the off-season and that transferred into a great campaign from both of them.

"Dave is another young guy who has shown over the past couple of seasons that he is more than capable of handling himself on the senior stage when called upon.

"As a young scrum-half, he has learned a lot under the experience of Ruan (Pienaar) and Marshy (Paul Marshall), and that will stand him in great stead."

Having recently witnessed Jacob Stockdale, Rob Lyttle and Ross Kane extend their own terms, Kiss was especially pleased to tie down four more players who should continue to improve as they move forward.

"All four of the guys have a great work ethic and a genuine eagerness to develop their game," he added.

"So I have no doubt that they will continue to be key components of our squad for the years ahead."

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