Switching sides and family ties for Ulster’s Cronin

THIRTY-FIVE years almost to the day since his father made his Munster debut at Ravenhill, prop Jerry Cronin will feature in the same fixture tomorrow night — as an Ulster player.

Cronin, 26 and born in Mallow, Co Cork, has been named on the Ulster bench for tonight’s Magners League clash with his native province after being brought in as front-row cover on a weekend when resources are stretched due to international call-ups and the usual litany of injuries.

The son of former Garryowen and Munster number eight Billy Cronin, former Mallow captain Jerry moved to Belfast two years ago for work as an engineer and has been earning rave reviews with Ballynahinch in the All-Ireland League.

The Corkman was named in Ulster’s Heineken Cup squad before the season and now, with the northern province missing five players on Ireland duty including prop Tom Court and former Springbok front-rower BJ Botha out with a wrist injury, Cronin has been promoted to the bench with Bryan Young replacing Botha at tighthead.

No-one could be prouder than father Billy Cronin, who said: “He’s a late developer but whatever he does, he’ll do fierce well.”

“He played junior rugby and then went up to Ballynahinch and did really well up there. He was out injured last year after carrying a shoulder injury for years and getting it fixed so he’s only had a couple of games back and he’s surprised to be on the bench. He’s over the moon.”

Billy Cronin, who coaches the Abbey CBS team in Tipperary, whose former pupils include Alan Quinlan and John Lacey, said he will try and get up to Belfast to see the match at Ravenhill, thus completing an unusual circle of circumstances.

“The funny thing is I got my first cap with Munster 35 years ago in the same fixture up there, and I’d say it was the same weekend in 1975.

“They are always tasty (encounters between Munster and Ulster), absolutely, especially up there,” he said.


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