David Shanhaan states his case with Ulster

Ulster's Dave Shanahan breaks away for a try against Cheetahs
Ulster's Dave Shanahan breaks away for a try against Cheetahs

Dave Shanahan stated his case with a largely positive display when getting a rare start for Ulster in the Guinness PRO14 draw with Cheetahs in South African last Friday night.

The diminutive scrumhalf has had his fair share of doubters, but when he was tasked to step up to the mark in Bloemfontein he took the opportunity.

It was only his 24th appearance in the Ulster jersey for the Dublin native since joining the Province in 2013.

However there have been limited opportunities for the Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy flyhalf, having to wait in the wings behind Ruan Pienaar and Paul Marshall - and now John Cooney.

Shanahan scored two tries as Ulster rallied to a 39-all draw with the South Africans last week, putting in a confident display compared with when he came off the bench the previous week against Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth which Ulster won 28-7.

While Cooney is ahead of him in the pecking order, Johnny Stewart is putting pressure on Shanahan and gave an equally confident display when he entered the fray from the bench in Bloemfontein, scoring a try himself.

Importantly for Ulster, with Cooney pressing hard for an international call for Ireland this November - and beyond - Shanahan and Stewart’s progress is vital for those international periods.

Shanahan admits starts do not come around as often as he would like them but he stays relaxed about it all and is keen not to push things too hard.

“I try to play the same game whenever I can because that’s what I do well, I like to bring tempo to the game, I pass the ball well.

“When you’re coming off the bench in the last 10 minutes you try to bring that extra energy, but to be honest, I just try to play the same game whether I start or come off the bench.”

Ulster returned their mini-tour with seven points from the two games.

Head coach Dan McFarland admitted the objective was to get two wins, but when you consider Glasgow came away with six points having lost to the Kings following a win over Cheetahs, it was not a bad return for the Irish Province.

And considering they were staring defeat in the face against Cheetahs, trailing 39-32 going into injury time, to get the converted try and take three points (two for the draw and one for scoring four tries) was a decent return.

Shanahan shared the disappointment, but believed there was still more to come from Ulster.

“I am happy enough with how I played. I got a good bit of game time last week. I was probably a bit rusty because I hadn’t played in a few weeks but I was happy enough with how I went.

“We would have liked two wins, maybe even 10 points, but there is still more to come from this side I believe,” he added.

Ulster face the first of two inter-pros this week when they travel to Limerick to face Munster before facing Connacht at Kingspan Stadium.

Munster are smarting from a heavy loss to Cardiff Blues and the Southern Province have been boosted by the return of Keith Earls ahead of Saturday evening’s game at Thomond Park.

Also back in Munster training this week are hookers Niall Scannell and Kevin O’Byrne, as well as second row Billy Holland.

Scannell is another man yet to feature for Munster this season after his involvement on Ireland’s tour of Australia and it could well be he will return for the game against Leinster.