Darren Cave is "excited" by the future of Ulster Rugby under head coach Dan McFarland after calling time on his playing career with the province.
Cave played his final game for the province last weekend when Glasgow Warriors claimed a one-sided 50-20 Guinness Pro14 victory at Scotstoun.
Despite bowing out with a semi-final defeat, Cave sees a bright future for the province who he thinks were ahead of schedule this season, despite not having a pre-season under McFarland, who arrived late at Ravenhill.
"It would have been a dream finish to go that one game further," Cave told RTÉ 2fm's Game On as he reflected on his final match.
"In many ways I think the group did come up short but I think it was one year too soon for this group.
"On the day we could have no complaints about how good Glasgow are and I don’t think that there are many teams that could complain the best two teams in the league are in the final.
"It’s been really good and Dan McFarland can be really proud.
"When Dan arrived, he wasn’t here for the start of preseason so he arrived at the end of August and there’s no doubt that if he’d had said ‘I’m going to play ten academy players this season, I’m going to get you to the quarter-finals of Europe and the semi-finals of the league’, Ulster would have bitten his hand off.
"It’s very much one foot in the right direction for Ulster Rugby, having said that it’s another season without a trophy.
"As long as it’s the start of something new and not the start of a false dawn which was something I was involved in a couple of times earlier in my career."
The former Ireland international is confident that Ulster are in good hands under McFarland and he believes than the Northern province will grow and develop under his tutelage.
"He’s meticulous and you’ll hear all the players boring you about details and standards and small things but those are what it takes and that’s what he’s very, very good at," Cave said.
"He prides himself on high standards in a lot of small things and the group as a result is the same.
"There’s been a great turn-around and as an Ulster fan now I see no reason why Ulster shouldn’t be better next year. We’ve got a lot of good young players who are a year older and a couple of good signings.
"I’m excited about by what Ulster rugby can produce over the next couple of years."
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