International centre Cave confirmed yesterday that after 13 years of playing with Ulster he would hang the boots up on a wonderful professional career with the Irish Province.
The ??-year-old had recently said he was considering his future and while many Ulster fans would have liked one more season from the stalwart midfielder, the former Sullivan Upper student has opted to take his bow.
Cave, who is the most capped current player in the squad, having played 225 to date in the famous Ulster jersey, announced his decision in an open letter.
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And paying tribute to Cave’s contribution over the years, Ulster skipper Best said: “Cavey and I have played together for a decade, so he is a player and person who I know very well and have great respect for.
“His career will be remembered for the big performances he produced when we needed them most, and also for the passion and commitment he demonstrated in the process.
“It’s no surprise that he’s a popular member of the squad and a favourite among the Ulster supporters.
“Darren is a brilliant ambassador for Ulster Rugby and he has done a great deal for the local community, particularly with his charity work and his support for disability sport.
“He is a great role model for not only the inexperienced members of our squad, many of whom he has taken time to mentor, but also for aspiring young players who dream of representing Ulster.
“We have a hugely important end to the season upon us and we are all determined to make Darren’s remaining time at Ulster as successful as possible.”
Ulster operations director and a former team mate of Cave’s, Bryn Cunningham added: ““Cavey will go down as one of Ulster’s finest ever centres. Without doubt, he is a player who did not get the recognition he fully deserved in what has been a brilliant career.
“It is his rugby nous and outstanding defensive communication that I will remember most. I always feel comfortable when he is named in the team, as he brings experience and intelligence to those around him.
“Most recently, he has been the instrumental figurehead for the player group in leading both charitable and community initiatives, something we are passionate about building upon over the next number of years.
“While I foresee Darren playing a prominent role in the Past Players Group and continue his close links with Ulster Rugby, we would like to wish him the very best in his future endeavours.
“With Cavey’s personality, I have no doubt that he will be a success in whatever line of work he chooses.”
In his letter Cave thanked the many people over the years who had contributed to his career at all levels, but it was his wife, family and fans - who he described as the ‘best in the world’ - who got his main plaudits.
“Whilst I’m proud of my achievements, more than anything else I’m grateful that my family sacrificed so much to let me pursue this crazy dream that I could play rugby for Ulster and Ireland.
“I really don’t know how I’m supposed to put my gratitude into words for how much my dad Brian and my mum Ruth have done for me over the years.
“Not to mention my older brother Stuart, who taught me how to go ‘toe-to-toe’ wrestling in the back garden from a young age.
“Who’d have thought it would have been such a valuable lesson?
“My amazing wife Helen has had to play second fiddle to rugby since we first met.
“We are expecting our first born in July, and if the love and support she has shown me over the years is anything to go by, I’m looking forward to watching her become an amazing mum.”
On the run-in to the end of the season, Cave added: “This is a really exciting group to be a part of and I’m determined to give everything so that we can finish the season on a high.
“Beyond that, I can’t wait to put my feet up and watch Ulster Rugby win trophies over the coming years!”