Confident Gilroy grabs his opportunity with both hands but the real work for him is only beginning
From the blindside:The Ulster winger has made a tremendous initial impact but now he has to build on that early momentum
All of a sudden, Craig Gilroy is the name on everybody’s lips. The one thing that really struck me about him last Saturday was the amount of confidence he seemed to be playing with. He didn’t look to be at all nervous about the whole experience, although when your first touch of the ball is a try I suppose you have every reason to look confident for the rest of the day.
But even so, it was noticeable how every time he got on the ball, he tried to do something positive and direct with it. You don’t do that when you’re a bag of nerves and you surely don’t do it when you’re only just in the team and a bag of nerves. But Gilroy’s confidence was up. You could see it in him – his chest was out, he was looking for the ball, he wanted to be the one to do the damage.
The good form for Ulster, the three tries against Fiji, the positive write-ups in the press, they all fed into it in the build-up to the game. And then, the biggest factor of all, he got the vote of confidence from his coach.
Each little building block went on top of the other until Declan Kidney was left with a young player bursting out of his socks and mad to get on the ball and take the game to Argentina.
That confidence is the key. Confident players try things. They play with belief, knowing that even if something doesn’t come off, that’s no reason not to go again. Anyone who’d seen him play for Ulster over the past few seasons knew he had a bit about him but it’s a big step up to a Test against Argentina that everyone thought was going to be a dogfight.
In the end, it wasn’t as tough a game as we had all imagined but that was in big part down to him scoring an early try and being involved in Johnny Sexton’s first try as well. If nothing else, we know for sure now he’s lethal going forward with the ball. He didn’t have to do a lot of defending so we can’t be certain about his ability in that regard. But we know he’s a threat. That’s set in stone now.
Timing and perception count for an awful lot when you’re trying to build a career. Three weeks ago, Craig Gilroy was just another young lad on the scene. He was an exciting prospect who had scored a few very good tries for Ulster on their way to the Heineken Cup final last season but that was about it. You might have thought he was one for the future, maybe somebody who could keep Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble honest in Ulster and hopefully take over from them in the next few years as they go into their 30s.