Ulster Rugby chief Jonny Petrie not ruling out playing more games away from Kingspan Stadium

Ulster Rugby fans in the stands during the Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Picture date: Saturday April 1, 2023.
Ulster Rugby fans in the stands during the Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Picture date: Saturday April 1, 2023.

With the new artificial pitch at Ulster’s home not ready to host a match yet, the team will make history on Saturday afternoon by playing a game for the first time at a GAA ground when Dan McFarland’s side face Glasgow at Cavan’s Breffni Park.

“I think that's always been part of the business case around Casement (Park) that we would find opportunities,” he said. “The way that you see Leinster and Toulouse across France with the football stadium, the big set-piece games, we don't want to have to take them to the Aviva – we want to play them here in Ulster.

“If Casement plays a part in that then great.

“Pre-season friendlies, we're looking forward to seeing the uptick on it this weekend.

"I think it's something that we need to look at – opportunities to play around the province, be that friendlies or 'A' matches or whatever it looks like.

“You can see that in the other provinces – we played Leinster in Navan.

“It's definitely something to consider to explore and it's a good place to start down in Cavan.”

Petrie explained the process in staging this weekend’s game in Cavan.

“It's been a really important thing for us to press ahead with,” he added. “When we realised that there were going to be pressures around getting the pitch sorted out here, we knew we needed to look at other options around that.

“When that presented itself out of necessity, we looked at Breffni Park as a facility and Cavan GAA's willingness to work with us has been fantastic.

“There's clearly a big focus for us in Belfast and its surrounds, in Northern Ireland, that representation as Ulster as a province and our ability to look at ways in which we can promote the sport in the three counties (Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal) is really important to us as well and what better manifestation of that to go and play a game in Cavan.

“It's been great that something that's borne out of necessity in the first place has become something that's a really positive story for us and we're really looking forward to getting down there on Saturday.”

Petrie is hoping that bringing the game to new pastures will help to attract more players and fans.

“I think the ability to look at developing further homegrown talent needs to be from all sorts of angles – not just traditional schools in Northern Ireland,” he said. “If we can continue to do that in the three counties, where, let's face it, there hasn't been a huge amount of players coming through the system to represent Ulster at a senior level.

“We know we need to place greater focus on that.

"We have a lot of resources through our clubs and rugby development staff working on participation and ways in which we can use the platform of the game this weekend to further push that on an ongoing basis.

“It's been great to see how the clubs in Cavan, Monaghan, and particularly Donegal have embraced that this weekend.

“There'll be lots of kids out participating alongside the game itself.

"We're looking to use this as a real platform in how we promote the game in the three counties as well as in Northern Ireland.”