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The five best Darren Cave moments as Ulster centre announces retirement

Darren Cave with Ulster's famous mascot Sparky.
Darren Cave with Ulster's famous mascot Sparky.

Darren Cave's Ulster career is coming to an end after the centre announced his retirement.

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Over the 12 years of his senior career with the province, Cave has worked his way into the fans' affections and will leave with heaps of praise and good will.

That hasn't happened by chance, rather it's the Holywood man's personality and, of course, his ability on the field that has endeared him to the support.

Here's a little look at our top five Darren Cave moments:

1. Cave's try helps Ireland Under 20s seal Grand Slam success in 2007

Cave was a key part of the Ireland Under 20s side that earned a first ever Grand Slam success in the 2007 U20 Six Nations. In a line-up that also featured the likes of Keith Earls, Cian Healy, Felix Jones, Ian Keatley, Cave had touched down in the penultimate game against Scotland. The crowning moment, though, came in the final game as Ireland roared back from 20-7 behind to beat Italy 25-36 and complete the Slam. Cave was again on the score-sheet, this time dashing past two tacklers to cross the whitewash.

2. The senior Ireland debut against Canada

Having played such a key role in the Under 20s' Grand Slam campaign, Cave was finally given the chance to prove his worth to the senior side in their tour of north America in 2009. With the British and Irish Lions off to South Africa, it was a key opportunity to impress and marked another landmark moment in the Holywood man's career. He was to go on to win only another 10 caps, no doubt hampered by the presence of a certain Brian O'Driscoll in the number 13 shirt for much of his career and very much to his annoyance. Indeed, there are plenty who feel he deserved more from what has been a top class provincial career.

3. A hat-trick against Leicester

Who could forget Cave's Ulster hat-trick against Leicester in 2015? Ok so the bonus-point win didn't prove overly significant as, by then, Ulster's chances of Euro progression were over. Nonetheless, it was further proof of the centre's prowess. Set up by Jared Payne and Ian Humphreys for the first two, it was the hat-trick clincher that was particularly impressive as Cave was able to hold off two tackles and stretch out for the touchdown.

4. That try against Glasgow to help Ulster seal European quarter-final spot

Arguably the Darren Cave try that springs to mind most easily is his jinking run down the left flank to help Ulster complete their path to the last eight of Europe's top competition back in 2013. Show the footage to a young Ulster fan and they could be forgiven for thinking it's Jacob Stockdale displaying his pace down the wing, his skill to cut inside one tackler and his power to drag another over the line with him.

Completing the 23-6 scoreline, it was the moment that Ravenhill could erupt into another big European celebration.

5. One more superhero display in European rugby

It has proved to be his last ever European game but Cave bowed out in trademark fashion, with a stunning performance in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. As Ulster were agonisingly edged out 21-18 by Leinster, their number 13 was among the top performers, making 14 tackles as he proved he still has plenty to offer at the very top of European rugby. "Bloodied but determined not to give ground, he was the focal point of Ulster’s defensive line-speed," read his Belfast Telegraph match rating. It's little wonder it left fans calling for one more year.

To be continued...

It's all not over yet as Cave has a few more opportunities to make more Ulster memories before the season draws to a close.

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