Craig Gilroy applauds Ulster Rugby's surge
Ulster's Craig Gilroy is rarely seen without a smile on his face. Whether it's darting over the try-line for yet another score for club and country, or walking over to greet me for our interview.
Not even the protective boot he's still wearing after injuring his ankle in the 18-12 victory over the Ospreys earlier this month could dampen his spirits.
It's been a frustrating time for the former Methodist College pupil of late, as injuries have curtailed his start to the season. A groin injury sustained in April saw him ruled out of the Rabo Direct final, as well as Ireland's summer tour to North America.
However despite sustaining another injury again this campaign, Gilroy remains upbeat and thinks he should be back fit again and ready for action in two weeks time.
He said: "Obviously I spent four months out with my groin, I was delighted to get back from that, and I was actually feeling better than ever.
So it was just such a shame that I only came back and played two games and I got injured again.
"It was just a silly injury, I went over on my ankle, it's not a serious injury, but one that keeps me out for a little bit. It just depends how recovery goes I guess but hopefully I'll be back playing again in two weeks," he added.
Ulster have been managing perfectly well in Gilroy's absence both against Cardiff last weekend and against Montpellier two weeks ago, putting in one of their finest away performances in recent memory, as they defeated the French Top 14 side in a stunning win for Mark Anscombe's side.
Watching from home, the 22- year- old believes that last season's victory against Castres at the Stade Pierre-Antoine, proved a launch pad to establishing only Ulster's second victory on French soil.
"It was a fantastic win; I was really excited to watch it just as a supporter. I thought the guys played really well and they showed good composure, it's not easy to go over to France and win.
"We won in France last year for the first time against Castres and that was a huge stepping stone for Ulster, and I think the guys took great confidence from that. I think the players just had real belief in one another and real desire to go over and win," he enthused.
With Ulster two points clear of Leicester at the top of Pool 5, after two matches, Gilroy believes that his side are in pole position to go on and win the group and qualify for the quarter –finals.
"Obviously we're in an extremely good place, ideally that's what we want to do, we want to finish top of the group and you want a home quarter-final, that's what we can do now.
"But at the same time you don't want to get ahead of yourself, we're going to take each game as it comes. I think Mark Anscombe has approached it really well.
"Heineken Cup weeks back to back, he's just focused on that completely and he's got the job done, which is fantastic."
With Ulster reaching the final of the competition two seasons ago and bowing out at the quarter final stage last season, Gilroy thinks that this current crop of players are capable of going the whole way and winning the trophy this time around.
He said:"I definitely think we can, we've got a strong enough team. We could have won it last year and we could have won the year before. I think this year we're as good as ever."
But with the future of Heineken Cup now in doubt with the French and English Unions wanting to set up their own European tournament next season, Gilroy admits that losing the tournament would be a shame.
"Everything seems to be up in the air really. For now though it's the Heineken Cup, this year anyway, and we're just going to concentrate on that.
"If it changes, it changes, and we have to adapt to that. If it changes for us, it changes for everyone else, we're all in the same boat. It's just like playing on a pitch that's waterlogged, it's the same for both teams, everyone has to deal with it. It'll be a shame I think if it ends, I think the general consensus is that the guys don't want it to end because it's a pretty old and good competition."
While the future of the Heineken Cup remains uncertain, one thing is for sure, Gilroy will be back in an Ulster shirt before very long.
However, with the likes of Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe and Michael Allen all excelling in Gilroy's absence, the Ulsterman knows that he will not necessarily walk straight back into the team.
"We've got guys playing well, there's a lot of competition there so of course it will be very tough, but I just have to firstly focus on my injury and get that right.
Once that's better I can really just knuckle down and get some game time, and start playing consistently and have the belief in myself that I'll get back in the team."