Richard Mulligan: Can Ulster spring a surprise on Leinster in Europe?

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen with Ulster's Head Coach Dan McFarland
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen with Ulster's Head Coach Dan McFarland
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A year ago last weekend Ulster defeated Cardiff Blues in a Guinness PRO14 fixture, a game that was to prove significant in many ways.

It was the turning point to eventually rescue their season after what had been a difficult season for the Irish Province.

Ulster failed to make the play-offs in the PRO14 and automatic qualification into the European Champions Cup.

But they had one last roll of the dice with a play-off against Ospreys, which they won in Belfast to secure the 20th and last place in this season’s European Cup.

Going into the new season, there was less expectation on Ulster to be regarded as challengers for silverware, new coaches and new players, this was a club in transition.

This evening in Dublin at 5:45pm Ulster will face defending champions Leinster in a European Champions Cup quarter-final - not bad for a side who scraped into the competition and who were expected to be also rans.

Many expect them to make their exit this weekend, but boosted by the return of the injury Iain Henderson, and having other key figures available including captain Rory Best, they could still spring a surprise.

Ulster to a man need to produce their best performance of the season for 80-plus minutes if they are to dump the holders out.

Memories of 2012 have returned when Ulster went to Thomond Park and turned over Munster at the same stage - the class of 2019 must find something speical if they are to do the same against Leinster today.