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2017 Lions prop McGrath is one of five players let go by Ulster

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Former Ireland and Lions prop Jack McGrath is the headline name in the five-strong list of players that are leaving Ulster at the end of the current season. Fellow international Sean Reidy has also been released along with the Ealing-bound Ross Kane, David O’Connor and Mick Kearney. 

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Loosehead McGrath came off the bench in all three Lions Test matches against the All Blacks five years ago but injury has curtailed much of his career since then and he played his final Ulster game in early March versus Cardiff. An Ulster statement read: “Since joining Ulster in summer 2019, prop Jack McGrath has made his presence felt within the province both on and off the pitch. 

“With 140 appearances for Leinster under his belt when he arrived in Belfast, the Dubliner went on to play for Ulster on 24 occasions, with injury curtailing how many times he has pulled on the white jersey recently. McGrath, who is about to undergo further medical treatment, will continue his rehab and journey back to full fitness as a professional player in the months ahead.”

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The 32-year-old McGrath said: “A big thanks goes to Ulster rugby and the coaches during my time in Belfast. My teammates became close friends and I will always value those friendships. I will miss the incredible support of the Ulster fans, it’s a great feeling running out at Kingspan Stadium as a home player and it is a shame I can’t get the opportunity to say farewell.

“As for the future, I’m now a free agent and I have no intention of retiring. I face months of rehabbing in my battle for full fitness, but I am surrounded by a top-class team who will ensure I am in great shape to return to play. I am fully committed to becoming the first player in any sport to play at an elite level with two hip resurfacing operations.”

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Reidy, meanwhile, is heading home to New Zealand at the end of a season where Ulster will host Munster in a URC quarter-final in Belfast next weekend. A stalwart for the last eight years, the Ireland-capped flanker recently made his 150th Ulster appearance in the European away win at Clermont. He said: “I want to thank everyone at Ulster for making this place feel like home over the past eight years.

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“It has been a privilege to represent the province and to have the opportunity to play for Ireland. Belfast has felt like home these past years and we have made lifelong friendships. I leave this place with only good memories.”

Prop Kane, who is moving on to the English Championship where O’Connor has recently been on loan, and short-term signing Kearney complete the list of players leaving. Ulster boss Dan McFarland said: “Thank you to Jack, Sean, Ross, Dave and Mick for all that they have given to the Ulster jersey over the years.

“They can all leave proud in the knowledge that they have each made a significant contribution to our province, and the journey we are on as a squad – and I wish them the very best for the future on behalf of all the players and staff at the club.”

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