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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 14:05 GMT
Kempson finally signs
Former Ireland lock Paddy Johns retires from Ulster duty
Paddy Johns hangs up his boots at end of season
Ulster coach Alan Solomons has finally got the man he wanted when Springbok prop Robbie Kempson agreed a two-year contract.

Kempson had been earmarked last year, but a neck injury kept the move on hold.

However, he has now proved his fitness and will be final piece of the jig-saw for Solomons' new squad.

Solomons had earlier added Dungannon lock Aidan Kearney to his contracted squad for next season.

Kearney joins the remainder of the original 29 player panel who were named earlier in January and Solomons had to seek permission to add the Dubliner to his panel.

Kearney, who was excluded from Ulster's 2002/2 Heineken Cup squad, now joins up with new South African flanker Warren Brosnihan.

Neil Doak and Paul Shields who were prominent throughout the season have had their contracts were upgraded to full time.

Coach Alan Solomons has put a lot of emphasis on local talent as he cuts loose overseas players David Allen, Mark Crick and Leopolda De Chazal.

Former South African flnaker Warren Brosnihan has signed for Ulster
Sprinbok Brosnihan on his way to Ulster

However, Rob Brink will again be in Ulster colours now that his shoulder and knee has been repaired, while Aussie-born Adam Larkin is also returning.

Ballymena trio Scott Young, Neil McMillan and Matt McCullough, who have come through the youth system with Ulster have been rewarded with full-time contracts.

Losing their contracts are two of Ulster's 1999 European Cup-winning squad Niall Malone and Richie Weir, while Brad Free has emigrated to America.

There are also Development contracts for Kearney's Dungannon colleagues Andy Hughes and Nigel Brady.

Also given Development contracts are Ballymena prop Brian Young and Belfast Harelquins flanker Neil Best.

Meanwhile, the focus of attention was on the retirement of veteran international lock Paddy Johns, a fully-qualified dentist who plans to work in the public sector.

Johns, 34 next month , believed he had come to the end of a long and hard road.

  Paddy Johns factfile
Born: 19.2.68
Clubs: Dungannon, Newcastle University, Saracens
Occupations: Rugby player, Dentist
International debut: v Argentina, 1990
Caps: 59
Last international: v Japan, 2000
Ulster debut: v Connacht, 1988
Ulster caps: 65

Capped 59 times after making his debut against Argentina back in 1990, Johns lead Ireland on their summer tour to South Africa in 1998.

Johns captained Ireland on 10 occasions and played his last game when he came off against Japan in 2000 to allow his Ulster colleague Gary Longwell to win his first cap.

He was the first Irish player to be capped at Schools, under-21, under-25, Ireland A and Ireland B levels.

The quiet-spoken Dungannon man, who also played for Newcastle University, left Ulster to play professional rugby with Saracens four seasons ago.

He returned home in 2000 and then captained Dungannon to All-Ireland League glory last season.

Johns will see out this season with Dungannon before hanging up the boots.

''I've played at Dungannon since I was an eight-year-old, and I'm glad that I will be ending my days with them,'' said Johns.

''I have a lot of miles on the clock, so it was time to call it a day.''

Ulster squad

(Forwards): S Best, C Boyd, J Fitzpatrick, M Sexton, P Shields, J Davidson, M Blair, G Longwell, M McCullough, R Brink, W Brosnihan, N McMillan, T McWhirter, R Nelson, A Ward, A Kearney, R Kempson.

(Backs): K Campbell, N Doak, D Humphreys, P Wallace, J Bell, R Constable, A Larkin, S Steweart, S Coulter, J Cunningham, T Howe, J Topping, B Cunningham, S Young.

BBC's Jim Neilly reports
Veteran Paddy Johns retires
Veteran international Paddy Johns
''The time was right to step down''
See also:

14 Jan 02 |  Celtic
Confusion over Ulster "signing"
15 May 01 |  Northern Ireland
Paddy's ready for more
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