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Glasgow Warriors v Ulster: Flying wing Craig Gilroy has recipe for success

By Jonathan Bradley

While the 'Gilroy Twister' may have some way to go to match the Fred Perry polo shirt and Baby Ruth chocolate bar, when companies attach your name to their products it's safe to assume you're doing something right.

After another year of try-of-the-season contenders, customers at Greene's Pizza in Belfast - an eatery that also serves up a Ferris Wheel in honour of a certain retired Ulster star - can now buy a slice named in honour of flying wing Craig Gilroy.

However, while his form has been enough to see him become a menu staple, he spent another season unable to force his way into the Six Nations shake-up.

Involved in plenty of training sessions, Gilroy's non-inclusion became something of a cause celebre in certain circles but the man himself was determined to make the best of the situation.

"I always try and get the best out of any experience," he said of training at Carton House.

"When I'm involved, it's great to be called in and if I'm not involved in the games, I still want to get the best out of it, no matter what that is.

"I'll train well in the gym and on the pitch and offer up as much as I can to the starting team."

On the groundswell of support on social media for either himself or Connacht's Matt Healy to be given a shot when Ireland struggled for tries in earlier rounds, Gilroy stresses that fans will never have the full picture of what goes on in camp.

"You see a little bit, just the way social media is nowadays; people tweeting you or whatever," he said.

"It's nice to have the support and the backing but I think, we're more involved, so we probably see a lot that the fans don't."

While the time off the field gave an opportunity for a maiden victory over Stuart McCloskey on the golf course - Gilroy does admit that the single-digit handicapper gave him a shot per hole and it was still close - and made the birthday of a pupil in Harberton Special School when the 25-year-old called in with a gift of match-worn boots, he is now raring to get back into the action against Glasgow this evening.

A win for either side would have a huge impact on the play-off race with Ulster just four points ahead, although Glasgow have a game in hand against Italian minnows Zebre.

"It'll be a huge test," said Gilroy, who starts on the right wing. "Glasgow have been a bit of a thorn for us and probably a few Irish provinces.

"Where they are in the league at the minute, this is such a big game. We can't let them back in or give them a sniff.

"They did so well to beat Leinster last week.

"What Gregor Townsend has done, he's brought on a lot of aspects of their game over the last couple years.

"They'll get some internationals back and it'll be a huge challenge."

Glasgow will indeed be boosted by their Scottish stars - 18 of their 23 for tonight were involved with the national side in some capacity over the last two months - but both sides will have to deal with a surface that has been an issue throughout the season and was heavily covered with sand for last week's visit of Leinster.

Gilroy feels Ulster will need to adjust accordingly.

"The Leinster game, I was watching and the pitch looked pretty bad," he added.

"I was just starting to enjoy the good weather coming in and then sat down to watch that.

"I just thought 'flip, we're playing on that next week'.

"That's where the character of the team comes in; you have to take all those things into consideration and make the best of that."

While Gilroy returns to the wing tonight, with Rory Scholes opposite and Stuart Olding at full-back, Tommy Bowe will soon be back from long-term injury and Andrew Trimble will come back into contention next week following the Six Nations to set up an intriguing selection battle.

The trio have not been available for the same game since October of 2014.

"It's been a long while, a strange one," reflected Gilroy.

"Trimby injured his toe, he came back for this season, and then Tommy did himself in at the World Cup.

"I'm just hoping it's not my turn to get injured," he added, searching for some wood to tap. "They're two guys I look up to and have loads of respect for. We're all good mates but we're in competition as well."

While his focus remains very much on tonight, and the remainder of a daunting run-in that also includes hosting Connacht and Leinster as well as trips to Zebre and Ospreys, a strong finish could lead to a spot on a South Africa bound plane for Ireland's summer tour.

"I've never been before and would love to be involved but my focus is on Ulster," he said.

"The league being the way it is, we're in a good position, but there's a massive run-in."

And it all starts tonight in Glasgow tonight.

Belfast Telegraph


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