20-year-old Ulster back, Stuart Olding, admitted he has found it surreal playing among so many of his boyhood heroes at Ulster this season.
Injuries to the likes of Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Jared Payne and Tommy Bowe have really tested Ulster’s backline depth, with the likes of Olding earning a chance to impress.
He grabbed that opportunity with both hands on Friday night, when he produced a man-of-the-match performance against the Dragons, crossing for one of Ulster’s four tires, as Mark Anscombe’s men cruised to a 31-5 win.
With Wallace unavailable through injury, Olding started Friday’s match wearing number 12, and he admitted after the game that the veteran Ulster centre is one of many of his current teammates that inspired him growing up.
"I remember a couple of years ago being out there and watching the boys so to be out there playing with them is pretty surreal at the moment," Olding told the RaboDirect PRO12 website.
"I grew up watching Paddy and he's been great on and off the pitch for me, it's a real shame that he's injured at the minute.”
Friday’s victory got Ulster’s season back on track after the disappointment of losing to Saracens in the Heineken Cup quarter-final.
They have reclaimed top-spot in the PRO12 with a three-point lead over second place Leinster.
The Ravenhill outfit will be looking to earn home advantage in the league play-offs by beating Connacht and Cardiff in their final two fixtures of the regular league schedule.
Olding insisted the players were determined to bounce back from the Saracens defeat.
"We were disappointed at the weekend and we wanted to pick ourselves up and rectify a few things and I think we did that with our performance.
"We have plenty of depth here and that's shown through the injuries and we're just looking forward to the finish to the season."