Stuart McCluskey: Forget ‘99, let’s write new history

There is much talk around UIster this season about the legends of 1998/99, but Stuart McCloskey is keen for the current Ulster side to write their own piece of winning history.

Stuart McCluskey: Forget ‘99, let’s write new history

By Jim Stokes

There is much talk around UIster this season about the legends of 1998/99, but Stuart McCloskey is keen for the current Ulster side to write their own piece of winning history.

“I don’t remember much of it from back then as I was only seven and was mostly into football then and watching United,” says McCluskey. “You hear it enough round this place.”

Too much?

“Probably! We shouldn’t be hearing too much about it 20 years after it happened. It’s the best thing we’ve done as a club, but we should try to write a bit more history and not just look back at the past.”

McCluskey is determined to last the pace when Ulster open their Heineken Cup campaign against Leicester Tigers at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday evening.

All too often, the man from Bangor in Co. Down has had his seasons ruined by injury.

Now after a combative start to the PRO14 campaign, the 27-year-old centre is in the mood to do some damage.

“Yeah, I’ve always been injured as it’s quite hard to stay fit for all of the games between October and January,” said McCluskey whose charging runs and offloading game need to be at their best at the weekend.

“I played against them last time at Welford Road. It was my first European game and I got hooked off after about 50 minutes. I then got injured against the Scarlets, who were weirdly in that group too that year.

“I love this competition. I grew up watching it and there’s always a buzz on European weeks.

“To play Leicester, Scarlets, and Racing, those are all massive games. Hopefully we get the win, stay in the competition and push for the quarters. Tigers are a great team with a great history in the competition.

”They are basically full of world-class players, a few Lions and a lot of internationals — they’ll up their game from last week. They’ve won three out of six as well so it should be pretty tight here.”

As for how the game pans out, McCluskey has an eye on the weather forecast.

“I think it will really depend on the weather. If the weather is crap they’ll be pretty much keeping it in the forwards and keeping it tight. That’s probably not a game we’d want to be playing. After watching last week’s game (against Connacht), I suspect they’ll go after our set-piece.

“They’ll probably be doing that, but we’ll be trying to do our own thing.”

Despite two successive inter-pro defeats, McCloskey insists there are still confident vibes within the squad.

“I wasn’t involved at Munster and it wasn’t a great showing by us, but I think we did a lot of good stuff last week against Connacht. Obviously the red and yellow cards didn’t help, but I thought the guys really stuck in there in the second half and made it a contest.”

After two caps for Ireland, the last against Fiji last November, McCloskey is keen to impress in the Ulster jersey in order to set down a marker.

“Who knows what it will take to get back in? I’m not really sure myself. I just want to play as well as I can here and put my best foot forward and there’s not much more I can do.

“The guys who have played there have played very well. I think there is a lot of competition with the centres at the minute. The depth in midfield is probably the best it’s ever been.”

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