Three of Ulster’s leading Academy players have signed their first senior contracts with the club.
Michael Lowry, Eric O’Sullivan and James Hume have been rewarded for their progress after making their debuts this season.
Lowry (20) has played 11 times, mostly at full-back, but made his first start at outhalf in lastFriday’s Guinness PRO14 8-0 win over Ospreys.
O’Sullivan (23) has featured at prop in 19 of the province’s 21 games.
Centre Hume (20) has made nine senior appearances so far this term under head coach Dan McFarland.
“This season has been exciting for the province to see so many Academy players step up and perform so well,” said McFarland.
“Eric, Michael and James are great examples of players who have seized their opportunities due to their hard work and as a result they have produced outstanding performances at Pro14 and Champions Cup level.
“Kieran Campbell and his Academy staff deserve a lot of credit for their work in identifying and nurturing talent in our local clubs and schools, enabling them to transition smoothly into the senior squad.”
Lowry said: “I’m delighted to have signed my first senior contract - it’s an amazing feeling. I’m grateful to my coaches at Dromore minis, Inst. (The Royal belfast Academical Institution), Banbridge Rugby Club and in the Ulster Academy for helping me get to this point.
“A few of the other young players have signed on as well and that’s great to see that we’re all sticking together. I’m really looking forward to being involved over the next few years.”
A pleased Hume added: “It’s been my dream to play for Ulster since I was a child so it’s amazing to be staying for another three years. I’ve really enjoyed my first team experience this season and I’m hoping to get even more opportunities in the years to come.
O’Sullivan said: “It’s been a great couple of years for me. It was a big change for me moving up from Dublin but I tried to take in all in my stride and joining a great club like Banbridge was a massive help for me in terms of my development.
“This year has been pretty incredible for me so far, so I’m just hoping to keep that going and enjoy it as much as I can.
“There’s a very exciting group of players coming through and we have a great coaching team in place so I think the future is looking very promising and I’m delighted to be staying on.”
All three are affiliated to Banbridge Rugby Club and signed their new deals at the Rifle Park venue.