11:45am Saturday 17th August 2013
By Will Bain
PONTYPOOL’S new outside-half Niall Martin has come back to Wales to try and kick-start his career.
The promising 10 is still only 19 but has already featured for Premiership sides Newport and Llanelli, as well Wales U19 and was part of the Dragons Academy set up.
In fact, such was his perceived potential he joined the former European champions Ulster last season as part of the province’s academy.
But with a host of young fly-halfs including the Ireland capped Paddy Jackson and South African star Ruan Pienaar in their ranks, he felt his chances of building a career in the first team looked limited.
So despite enjoying his time in the Irish equivalent of the Premiership with Ballymena in the AIB leagues last season, he decided to come home to Wales to re-ignite his career.
"I obviously wanted the Ulster experience to last longer, and I gave it my best they just weren’t looking for another young 10 in the end. It was a great place to be though with them pushing for the Rabo it was a great experience, and I’ve definitely come back a better player," he explained.
"So I came back and spoke to a few Premiership teams, but a lot of them weren’t really looking for a ten.
"I met Mike [Hook] and he told me the targets for the season and it interested," the former Llantarnam school pupil said.
"The fact that Pooler are such a big club with so much history, to be part of helping them get back to the Premiership would be a great challenge for myself. What a great thing to be part of, if we could that in the next couple of years."
It wasn’t just on the field he learnt at Ulster but off it too, having been around the squad when their young centre, Nevin Spence tragically died on the family farm along with his brother and father.
It’s perhaps that mental toughness and ability to deal with tough moments that have already been thrown at him in his fledgling career that have impressed not only Hook, but former Pooler legend Mark Ring, who raves about Martin.
"If it’s on, we’re going," he says describing his playing style.
"But I like to make sure we have control, there’s no point just chucking it for the sake of it," he says.
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