'One of Ulster’s finest ever centres' Darren Cave to retire at end of the season

'One of Ulster’s finest ever centres' Darren Cave to retire at end of the season

Ulster centre Darren Cave has announced his decision to retire at the end of the season.

The 31-year-old, who made 225 appearances for the province so far over 13 years, made the announcement on social media.

Cave said that he had always "dreamt of playing for Ulster" but "the time has come for me to step aside."

Posting a statement on Twitter, Cave said he "could not be more grateful to retire as a lifelong Ulster man."

In an open letter, Cave was quick to thank the poeple who supported his career.

"Many people have contributed massively to help me along this journey, far too many to name," Cave wrote.

"Thank you to my friends, coaches, medical staff, S&C staff and all the other staff and management at Ulster Rugby behind the scenes that gave me the opportunity to be the best player, and person, that I could be.

"I’ve no idea how many team-mates I’ve had over the years but thank you to all of them, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I have made some friends for life.

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.

Cave has spent his entire career in the Northern province and made 11 Ireland caps.

Ulster are just off the back of a heartbreaking defeat to Leinster in the Champions Cup, in which Cave played a starring role.

Tributes to the centre's career have been flooding in since the announcement.

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best stated that: "Cavey and I have played together for over 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.

'One of Ulster’s finest ever centres' Darren Cave to retire at end of the season

“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.”

Bryn Cunningham, who played with Cave at Ulster and is the current Operations Director at the province said Cave "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," said Cunningham

“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."

'One of Ulster’s finest ever centres' Darren Cave to retire at end of the season

Darren Cave's open letter in full:

Many people have contributed massively to help me along this journey, far too many to name. Thank you to my friends, coaches, medical staff, S&C staff and all the other staff and management at Ulster Rugby behind the scenes that gave me the opportunity to be the best player, and person, that I could be. I’ve no idea how many team-mates I’ve had over the years but thank you to all of them, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I have made some friends for life.

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.

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.

I genuinely believe Ulster fans are the greatest fans in the world, and not just because I was brought up as one. Over the last 13 years the lows have been low, but the highs have been higher, and most importantly, the terraces have always been full, the voices have been loud and you’ve always been there for me and the team.

Thank you so much.

SUFTUM

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