Young Ulster prospect Ethan McIlroy credits development at Methody for career progress

Methody beat Campbell 45-17 in the 2019 Schools’ Cup final and were considered one of the best teams to grace the competition in the last few decades.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Friday, 4th February 2022, 9:57 am
Updated Friday, 4th February 2022, 10:21 am

Methody’s standout player was Ethan McIlroy, the full-back who converted five of his side’s seven tries in the final.

Four years later and the 21-year-old has already made 28 appearances for Ulster including the wins at Leinster, Clermont and Northampton.

McIlroy starts on the wing in Friday night’s United Rugby Championship Irish derby against Connacht (8.15pm) at Kingspan Stadium in a back line that includes Michael Lowry and Robert Baloucoune, both released by Ireland, while Stuart McCloskey returns from injury.

Ulster's Ethan McIlroy. Photo by John Dickson / DICKSONDIGITAL

McIlroy feels his development at Methody has help him make the transition into the professional ranks.

“Nicky Wells was probably my coach for three years, my last three in school rugby and he had a big influence on me,” he said.

“I developed from being fifth year to upper sixth so much. A lot of my game improved drastically and that’s how I ended up getting into the sub-Academy through the development he allowed me to have.

“I did a lot of stuff and there were other coaches there in Methody helping me out such as Mr (Stephen) Lindsey and stuff like that, so they all had a part to play in every aspect of my game.”

McIlroy is equally comfortable playing at full-back or on the wing and fits seamlessly into both.

“I train a wee bit at full-back every now and then just with rotations and stuff so I get a bit,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s really difficult but I felt maybe a wee bit rusty in the last game having not played a game at full-back in a while, so there are a few things I could tidy up but, yeah, it’s going alright.”

Acknowledging his talent and potential Ulster tied McIlroy down by getting him to commit his future at Kingspan Stadium by signing a three-year deal.

“I’ve been a big fan of the club since I was a boy so my first choice was to stay here,” he said.

“They offered me the contract so that was happy days for me; I love playing here, and the team is great so I’m happy to stay.”

Prop Gareth Milasinovich is rewarded for his try against the Scarlets with a first start for Ulster.

Recent signing Declan Moore is in line for his Ulster debut as he provides the hooker cover from the bench.

Ulster: (15-9) Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, Angus Curtis, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; (1-8) Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Gareth Milasinovich, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Sam Carter, Greg Jones, Marcus Rea, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Declan Moore, Callum Reid, Ross Kane, Mick Kearney, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Ben Moxham, Rob Lyttle.

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