Speedster Aaron Sexton in line to make Ulster debut on Saturday

Teenager qualified for the semi-finals of the 200m at the World U20 Championships

He is still only 17 but rugby's gain could be a loss to Irish athletics. While the Irish athletics team celebrated in Berlin following a bronze medal win by Thomas Barr in the 400m hurdles, Ulster rugby were preparing Irish Schools sprint champion Aaron Sexton for his first start in a senior Ulster jersey.

The teenager will probably make an appearance from the bench in the provinces’ pre-season friendly against Gloucester in Kingspan Stadium on Saturday. Sexton is named on the extended Ulster bench.

The schoolboy's name first emerged as a gold medal winner at the Junior Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2017. It appeared again alongside that of Sarah Healy in June of this year as two of the outstanding talents at the All-Ireland Schools track and field championships in Tullamore.

From Bangor Grammar School, the teenager clocked 10.52 seconds when he won the senior boys 100 metres, dipping under the existing record of 10.59 seconds, set five years ago.


Sexton then completed a sprint double by winning the 200m in 21.12 seconds, which put him joint 14th fastest on the Irish all-time list.

In May he was named Ulster Schools Rugby Player of the Year and last month in Tampere, Finland he ran a personal best of 21.06 seconds over 200 metres to qualify for the 200m semi-final at the World Under-20 Championships.

Sexton was picked on the Peter Smyth-coached Irish Under-18 Schools team earlier this year having returned to 15s duty after winning the European U18 Sevens Championship with Anthony Eddy’s squad back in September.

Still at school in Bangor, he is one of four Ulster Academy players named among the replacements for the game against Gloucester.

ULSTER (v Gloucester, Saturday, 5.30pm): Peter Nelson; Craig Gilroy, Stewart Moore*, Darren Cave, Angus Kernohan*; Michael Lowry*, Jonny Stewart; Schalk van der Merwe, John Andrew, Tom O'Toole*; Alan O'Connor (capt), Alex Thompson; Marcus Rea*, Chris Henry, Nick Timoney.

Replacements – Backline: David Shanahan, Billy Burns, Angus Curtis*, James Hume*, Aaron Sexton, Jack Owens, Will Addison. Forwards: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Eric O'Sullivan*, Marty Moore, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Regan*, Caleb Montgomery, Clive Ross, Sean Reidy, Greg Jones.

* Academy and sub-Academy players

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times