On Friday the 14th of September 2012, the Ravenhill faithful player of the year, Stephen Ferris will reach 100 caps for Ulster. Andy Richardson takes a look back at his time in the Ulster Jersey.
Ferris was signed to the province in the 2005-6 season, on a development contract, as is usual in the Irish game. He made his debut that year against the Borders in October 2005 and has never looked back, signing a full contract the following season. The IRFU must have seen his early potential and he was selected for the U21 side for the Rugby World Cup in Argentina, and then made his debut in the senior side against the newly-formed Pacific Islands in November 2006.
His honours in a green shirt are impressive and include Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam in 2009. The Lions tour to South Africa came beckoning that year and he unfortunately picked up an injury against the Golden Lions before he had the opportunity to become a full test Lion. His performances until then had marked him out as a Test player, and his loss was a severe blow to the tour.
In recent years, a knee injury has hampered Ferris’ progress across all competitions, but he has worked hard with the Ulster back-room staff to continue and it is a credit to them and Ferris’ dogged determination that in 2011 he was part of the Ireland Squad that beat Australia in the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup.
Last season for Ulster, he received three Man of the Match awards, which included the now legendary win at Thomond Park over Munster in the Heineken Cup, and he was subsequently nominated for ERC player of the year and won Personality of the Year for Ulster.
Against Munster this Friday night, Ravenhill will be loud. The travelling Munster team, although welcome, will face an intense atmosphere that the stadium itself produces. The fans are so close to the side of the pitch and the incessant ‘Ulster, Ulster’ crys are deafening – the crowd will be in fine voice and they no doubt will ‘Stand up for the Ulsterman’ Stephen Ferris.
Check out the video below in which Ferris gives his thoughts on the highs and lows of his career, and what it means to play in the inter-provincial games.
By Andy Richardson