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McCloskey signs new deal and vows to hit heights

 

By Adam McKendry

Ulster have announced that centre Stuart McCloskey has signed a new three-year deal at Kingspan Stadium.

McCloskey, 26, was out of contract at the end of the upcoming season, however has wasted no time in agreeing to stay on in Belfast, with his new deal tying him down until the summer of 2022.

The powerful ball-carrying centre has become a regular feature in the Ulster set-up since he made his debut against the Dragons in February 2014, and he is now one of the more experienced members of the Ulster squad.

In all, the former Bangor Grammar student and Dungannon RFC star has made 82 appearances for his province, chipping in with 14 tries and 89 points.

McCloskey has also been capped twice by Ireland, making his international debut away to England during the 2016 Six Nations Championship, with his only other appearance on the international stage in a 23-20 win over Fiji in November 2017.

Having been involved in an Irish training camp last week, there is the potential for the Bangor man to push on this season and nail down a spot in the Ireland squad for the World Cup in Japan next year.

"I'm really excited to have signed a new contract," McCloskey commented.

"I grew up dreaming of playing for Ulster and I feel privileged to now be in a position to pull the jersey on every week.

"We've recruited strongly and have a core group of experienced players who still have their best years ahead of them.

"We also have a large number of promising young players coming through the system, and I've no doubt that they will make a big impact in the coming years.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how things come together for us as we aim to bounce back to where we belong. Hopefully the supporters can buy into that as well and we can reward their loyalty."

McCloskey will be vital to the club this season, particularly in a back line that has lost plenty of experience over the summer due to retirements and departures, as well as the loss of Luke Marshall to a long-term injury.

With impressive young talents such as Angus Curtis and Stewart Moore pushing through, McCloskey's example will also be key to their development as Ulster aim to rebuild a competitive squad.

Bryn Cunningham, Ulster's Operations Director, also expressed his delight at the news that McCloskey would be staying on at Kingspan Stadium for a further three years.

"This is very positive news for us going into the new season," Cunningham said.

"We have quite a young squad so having experienced players like Stuart on board is hugely important.

"Stu has really grown in stature over the past couple of seasons and is a key figure for us in both attack and defence.

"His ability to cross the gain line is well known, but his playmaking abilities have developed under the coaching of Dwayne Peel and he is a massive threat with ball in hand.

"I'm sure we'll see him improve even more in the seasons ahead."

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