David O’Connor, Just like his older brother Alan, has left his native Leinster to join Ulster with a view of playing in the professional game.
Alan joined Ulster in 2012 and is closing in on 100 caps for the province and he has also donned the skipper’s armband.
David, who is three years younger than his brother, is hoping to lay down a marker in tomorrow’s pre-season game against Glasgow and force his way into the match day squad for the Pro14 opener against the Ospreys on September 27th.
“I was playing for Lansdowne last season and I just really wanted to push on and get to the pro game,” said O’Connor.
“I came up on trial last year and I’m up here to impress and add value to the squad.
“There are a couple of boys in Connacht at the moment and that’s why I moved to Lansdowne for a quick pathway to maybe get to the pro game.
“I thought it was the best opportunity I had to get there.”
Alan’s success at Ulster made it an easy choice for David to follow him north.
“He came up here around seven years ago now,” he said.
“Ever since he came up I’ve pretty much been supporting Ulster as the family would go and watch him.
“It’s definitely been good fun having him here as well.”
His big brother wasn’t the only familiar face O’Connor knew when he arrived in the Kingspan dressing room.
“Me and Nick Timoney have been best buds since third year (in school),” he explained.
“He was also a great pull to try and get up here as well with all the advice he gave.
“I’ve known quite a few boys from underage levels so it’s not been much of a transition really.”
O’Connor has noticed a big difference going into the professional game from club rugby.
“It has been the speed of training so far,” he said.
“Dan (McFarland) is always going on about it and it took me two or three weeks to get to grips with it.
“Training is high intensity and being here has all been unreal so far.
“As soon as I came in I wanted to be the best version of myself.
“If I get that opportunity and get that chance and hopefully get some minutes in the Glasgow games, then I’ll hopefully be able to push on.”
O’Connor has been impressed by new Ulster forwards coach Roddy Grant, who arrived from Edinburgh in the close season.
“He’s really good and into movement and stuff like that,” said O’Connor.
“His lineout work has been unbelievable so far and as an extra voice in training he’s been really good about things in the plays and he brings a big drive in standards too.”
O’Connor is hoping his versatility will get him plenty of minutes on the pitch.
“I’m a second row or six and can do both wherever the team needs me I’ll pop in,” he said.
“It’s been a long enough pre-season now so we’re just buzzing so hopefully get some game-time there and push on.”