Winger Mark McCrea is hoping to put a frustrating year behind him and return to the Ulster shirt for tomorrow night's friendly with Bath at Ravenhill.
The Malone speedster scored two tries from six appearances in his debut season and scored for Ireland A against the USA at the Churchill Cup in 2008 but a terrible run of injuries has curtailed the exciting 22-year-old's progress.
His last appearance for the province came against the Scarlets last October but, with Andrew Trimble and Simon Danielli injured, McCrea wants to make up for lost time.
“I broke my foot around October/November last year and it took my the best part of four months to get back,” he explained.
“I played a couple of games but went down on the foot again and that was another few weeks out. Then I tore a tendon in my finger and had to get an operation which ruled me out of the last months of the season.
“It was a scrappy year for me but I'm fully fit now with no pains or aches.
“I just want to get game time and play well, get my confidence back up and become match fit. I just want to focus on my own game at the minute and hopefully if I play well in the next few games the season will sort itself out.”
Ulster beat Bath home and away in Europe last season and the sides will clash in the competition again this year and, although there may be no points at stake tomorrow night, McCrea feels it will be a good run-out, but he just wants to get through the game injury free.
“Bath are a good team and we have got them in the European Cup so we'll probably beat lumps out of each other,” joked the winger.
“No rugby match is ever a friendly match but with it being the first game everyone is buzzing and looking forward to it.
“You want to avoid injury but it is hard to play and worry about injury. You just have to let go and you can’t let it get into your head. Everyone is ready to go and wants to get back into action.”
Ulster will want to pick up where they left off last season when they took a maximum 10 points from their last two games but McCrea believes transferring the hard work from the training ground to the pitch will be more important than the result.
“We'll want to get a few things that we have been working on in training right and we'll want to get some match fitness,” he said.
“You can do all your pre-season but there is nothing like playing in a match, we're looking forward to just getting into a game. A win would be nice but we just want everyone gelling together.”
“The South African boys coming in has given everyone a real boost and they add experience,” added McCrea.