Lock John Donnan is hoping to make up for lost time by helping Ulster ‘A’ to British & Irish Cup glory this season.
Kieran Campbell’s side are all but through to the quarter-finals but face a final day shoot out with Jersey for a home quarter final.
Donnan started in last week’s bonus point 38-21 win over London Scottish but he was nearly forced to quit the game a couple of seasons ago due to injury.
“That’s two years ago now and we couldn’t get any headway with it at all,” explained Donnan.
“ I was out for the full season and it was just after the Under 20s with Ireland and it wasn’t looking good but I struck at it.
“I did it when I was training through the pre-season I did my knee and then the training session before I was playing I broke a bone in my foot, a tiny bone in my foot and I couldn’t get any headway with it.
“I see there are a lot of boys struggling with their feet so I seemed to have started it.”
“I’d say I’m ahead of where I was (two years ago), the physicality of senior rugby now I’m up there and need to keep pushing on and not get another injury.”
“Staying fit is the main thing and getting a bit of luck to see what we can do.”
Donnan had a good grounding in the physicality of rugby by playing with Ballynahinch in the All Ireland League.
“The AIL has been really important for me and I remember Kyle saying about it when he came up last year.
“Being at Ballynahinch and having that exposure to good senior rugby is so important and enjoyable at the same time.”
Donnan partnered Robbie Diack in the engine room in last week’s victory.
“Robbie’s brilliant, his knowledge and chatter on the pitch as well as keeping the boys calm and knowing what to say and saying it and Cavey and Gilly just knowing the right things to say at the right time is really important.
“The bonus point was brilliant and what we set out for and what we’re setting out for again as we’re never looking for anything less than that.
“We’ve got to be ambitious and look to play in this competition. We’ve got to score points and we can score points.”
Donnan is expecting a huge battle up front as Jersey look to beat Ulster and claim a home tie in the last eight.
“They are big physical players and we’ve got to move them around, we know what we’ve got and we’ll see who comes out top.”
“These boys are going to come at us and I can’t wait to go at them, we’re going looking for nothing less than a win.”
Ulster skills coach, Niall Malone, accepted it was great to see the ‘A’ team going well given all the adverse publicity recently with the senior team.
“It is so vital to have them in the position they are. Kieran (Campbell) and Willie (Anderson), the boys really enjoy working with them and for them.
“Their results have been good and I thought they were expectional here last weekend.
“They have a really difficult match against Jersey away, who are also a strong team.
“But every part of our club - the underage teams, the A team, the senior team - we want it all to be successful. In years gone by we haven’t qualified out of that tournament, and this year it looks like we have already with a game to go.
“It’s nice when the senior team isn’t doing so well that the ‘A’ team are flying the flag for us and hopefully they continue to do that.”