He's exciting, he's fresh and he's eager to please
A broken jaw at home to Leeds the following week left him eating soup and “in a world of pain”, but after a few try-scoring return games for Dungannon he made his competitive Ulster debut the following November, away to Cardiff in the Magners League. “I just love that pressure. It’s weird. I was talking to Enda (McNulty) the other night, my first cap for Ulster, my first cap for Ireland; I wish I could have that feeling before every game. That Ulster game I was just buzzing.”
Yep, it went well too. Man of the Match and just the two tries; another intercept, and a solo effort from 60 metres out. For Humphreys and Brian McLaughlin, the winger’s debut was further vindication of their belief in the player. “He’s got that X factor you’re always looking for in a young player,” says Humphreys.
Gilroy scored five tries in his first three games, and eight all told in that rookie season, resulting in a first professional contract, which has since been extended to 2016. Amazingly, he now has 60 competitive caps for Ulster, not to mention his burgeoning Irish career.
He continues to pick his days well too. A standout was that solo try in Ulster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final win at Thomond Park. “My favourite try of all-time.”
Well, he corrects himself, until his Irish debut against Argentina last November, a week after his hat-trick against Fiji. All his family bar his brother Stuart were in the Aviva that day. Gilroy had rarely been so nervous, but helpfully he roomed with Tommy Bowe, who presented him with his jersey on the day. “The drive from the Shelbourne to Lansdowne Road was amazing.”
An early touch eased him into the game, and then came the try. Ireland won well, he received his first cap at a “lovely” post-match dinner, saw his family and had a great night in Dublin. You couldn’t script it.
“Now that I’ve had a taste of a game like Ireland-England, when you lose, you learn to appreciate when you’re playing well, and give yourself a pat on the back. I always seem to want more, but sometimes you should reflect and enjoy.”
And want more days like that. Encouragingly, he says there’s the same feeling in training as there was before the Argentina game, with a couple more new faces that he knows so well. “It’s exciting, it’s fresh, it’s eager in there.”
He could, of course, also be talking about himself.