By the time Ulster’s pre-season games come around next month, Craig Gilroy will have spent almost 11 months on the sidelines. Understandably, with the 2019/20 campaign almost upon us, he is determined to make up for lost time.
Gilroy picked up a back injury during the province’s GUINNESS PRO14 clash with the Dragons last October, and a series of setbacks have resulted in a hugely frustrating spell for the 28-year-old Ireland international.
Now, the flying winger is finally back to full training and has his sights firmly on a return to action, with the back-to-back pre-season games against Glasgow Warriors – at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday, September 7, and a week later at Scotstoun Stadium – in view.
“It’s good to be back training with the guys and doing everything, and I don’t mean just training in terms of gym and running, but the full scale of rugby stuff, including contact and running patterns,” he told the Ulster Rugby website.
“It has been great to be able to do that and put the injury behind me and I want to finish this pre-season really strong and just get stuck in to the new season.
“I’ve really missed playing for Ulster. It will be just short of a year out injured when the new season kicks off, so touch wood I’m good to go for the Glasgow games.”
Gilroy watched on as a rejuvenated Ulster, with new head coach Dan McFarland at the helm, progressed to the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and the GUINNESS PRO14. And the speedster, who has notched 60 tries for Ulster, was clearly enthused by the progress he witnessed.
“That was a huge step, to get to the (PRO14) semi-final and the European quarter-final last season. We had a good year but we didn’t win anything and don’t want to keep being second best. I think we’re moving in the right direction but it’s the fine margins at this level that make a difference.”
With improved performances in both competitions, Ulster enter the season with a sense of expectation. That pressure is something Gilroy is keen to play down.
“I honestly feel like the organisation and the supporters trust us and know that we’re on the right path now,” he insisted. “That’s a great feeling as a player, and I’ve been around long enough now to know that supporters just love to come and watch us play well and be competitive, and do the jersey proud.
“Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but we are on the right path, and if we continue with what we’re doing then the results will come and we’ll have something to show for it.”
Tickets for Ulster’s home pre-season fixture against Glasgow Warriors in Belfast on Saturday, September 7 are on sale at ulsterrugby.com/buytickets. Ulster Rugby Season Tickets are also available at ulsterrugby.com/seasontickets.