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We must be focused on the here and now in trophy quest: Cave

 

Emotional time: Darren Cave with his wife Helen after the game
Emotional time: Darren Cave with his wife Helen after the game
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Knowing that fellow retiree Rory Best was soon to follow him at the table, as Darren Cave left the Kingspan Stadium media room for the final time he joked: "You guys can all go home now."

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Always relaxed and good humoured in such situations, the 32-year-old could afford a laugh after his Ulster career was extended by at the very least another fortnight thanks to a quarter-final victory over Connacht.

The chase for the first medal of his senior career, and Andrew Trimble's Ulster appearance record, which he now trails by just one, goes on.

It hadn't always looked nailed on to be the case, Ulster leading by only a point in the closing stages before Marcell Coetzee made sure of a semi-final against Glasgow with a late try.

"We were one point ahead and I thought, 'Is this the last time I ever play rugby?'" he said. "That was pretty scary, so I'm happy we came through it.

"It's mixed emotions because I genuinely don't feel like it's time to reflect. I feel like the one thing I've been trying to tell this group is don't approach these games like there's going to be another year or another go at it. It's an easy thing to say when you are at the end, but the whole way through my career we got to semi-finals, finals, quarter-finals and I always felt like there'd be next year.

"One thing that Rory and I are trying to say is don't try and wait until next year, make sure next year is the year you're going for two in a row."

Cave's 228th Ulster appearance was among his shortest, replacing Luke Marshall to a rapturous reception when his fellow centre went off for an HIA in the second half. Cave looked like he picked up a knock himself during the short stint but will match Trimble's mark in the last-four trip to Scotstoun and could then eclipse it in the final.

He's already firmly stated that the hunt for silverware comes first but admits the record would be nice as icing on the cake.

"I was just happy I got on," he said of a day Dan McFarland didn't make huge use of his bench. "At one stage I was thinking it'd be a bit embarrassing if I didn't.

"I try not to think about (the record) because I think I'm bound to get injured or I'm bound to not get on.

"It's not a fair comparison, caps, because the professional game has taken over from the amateur game in terms of the number of fixtures there is.

"I'm not going to lie and say that it wouldn't be pretty satisfying to retire with a trophy and say I played for Ulster more than anyone ever in the history of the club."

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