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Craig Gilroy focused on putting bad run of results behind him

By Jonathan Bradley

While the rest of the province winds down for Christmas this week, Craig Gilroy has assured fans that the Ulster players will be firmly focused on addressing their recent slump in form ahead of a Boxing Day visit from near neighbours Connacht.

Saturday's limp defeat to Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium saw Neil Doak's men fall out of the top four - the positions that bring with them an end of season play-off berth - while defeat on Friday would see them drop one place further to sixth.

Three defeats in four games has prompted much external discussion of the team's progress and Gilroy, who was rested entirely from last weekend's game, has been frustrated by the recent run of results.

"There's been a lot of hard work over the last wee while without, maybe, an awful lot to show for it which is pretty disappointing from our point of view," he said.

"It almost feels as if you don't really have time to worry or feel sorry for yourself.

"There's things to be done and we've Connacht on Boxing Day, and Leinster straight after that, so it's some massive fixtures for us that we really need to be ready for.

"It's choc-a-bloc for us.

"It's part of the season where, I wouldn't quite call it the business end of the season, but there's certainly a lot of fixtures together in a group that, if we can do well, it will certainly make life easier for ourselves later down the line.

"I think you just have to really get back on the horse and produce the sort of results that we know our lads are capable of.

"We're a fantastic team who is capable of doing well, we just need to show it."

A first loss to Connacht in Belfast since 1960 would certainly undermine that idea but Gilroy has promised there will be no excesses of the season from himself and his team-mates as they focus on netting what is now a much-needed victory.

"For us guys who will hopefully be involved the next day, it's still Christmas dinner, still time with the family, but that's really all it is," said the confident six-times capped Irish wing.

"We have a game the next day and we really have to focus on that.

"(Christmas) will be a quiet, timid affair but I'm still looking forward to it.

"I'm happy enough to have a bit of food, drive home and get a good night's sleep.

"At the end of the day, that's my job, that's my career, that's what I love doing and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

"It should still be a really nice festive period, but especially so if the results go our way."

The 23-year-old, along with the rest of Ulster's Ireland internationals, is spending the early part of this week at a national training camp with head coach Joe Schmidt and is eager to impress ahead of a Six Nations title defence and, of course, a World Cup tilt in 2015.

On the gathering this week, he said: "It's just a short camp but it should be very beneficial.

"It's just good to get the guys together who are in their own provinces at this time otherwise, just to refresh the brain and refresh the stuff that we did during the November series. It's good to keep that going again and top up what we did that brought the success we had over the autumn.

"There's a lot of guys looking to put their hands up for selection.

"It's a big year for all of us and there's a lot of games to be played so all of us really need to do our talking out on the pitch."

A big year to come but, the way things are going, Ulster and Gilroy cannot afford to be looking any further ahead than Friday.

Belfast Telegraph

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