Ulster wing Craig Gilroy has revealed the back injury that wrecked his season was so debilitating a few months ago he was struggling to put his socks on.
The 28-year-old hasn’t played since the Champions Cup defeat at Racing 92 in October, and is hoping to make a return to action before the end of the season, although it remains a long shot.
“It’s actually the same thing I did last year, it has just taken a bit longer this time,” he says.
“I’m through the worst. I’m back running and I can do a few more things, but there was a period when I couldn’t do much and I couldn’t put my socks on — or it could take 10 minutes to do it.
It’s frustrating, but moping about it isn’t going to make it any better.
Gilroy suffered a back spasm during the warm-up before a PRO14 game against the Dragons at Kingspan Stadium. Initially, he didn’t even know there was a problem.
“I knew I’d hurt my back and it was feeling a wee bit funny, but nothing showed up in the scan and then I got (another scan) and it showed up on that.
“Again, last year, that’s what showed up on the other side. The other side is fine and it has healed fine so I just fractured a wee bone on the left side now.
“It’s just taking a wee bit longer to heal, but I’m back running and training now. The biggest frustration is not knowing when you’ll be back. It’s been five months at this stage, so another month or six weeks doesn’t seem that long.”
Ulster, who are second in Conference B, face Conference A leaders Glasgow in Scotstoun tomorrow night needing an instant pick-me-up after last weekend’s Champions Cup loss to Leinster.
They received a lot of plaudits for their performance in the Aviva Stadium, and while there’s no prizes handed out for moral victories, Gilroy insists it was an important moment in the development of this team.
“We bettered them (Leinster) for the majority of the game, and everyone could see that we were on that level with them. It’s a good feeling, as it’s been too long now.
“We’ve gone down there and got our asses handed to us pretty much, so that gives us a lot of confidence and people said ‘oh they were missing so-and-so, and him...’ but that was still an unbelievable Leinster side and we had a few injury issues as well.
“It inspires me too to get back, push on and get back into the team and shine for them.”
Meanwhile, 31-year-old Ulster centre Darren Cave is to retire at the end of the season. Cave, who has made 225 appearances since joining the province 13 seasons ago, announced the decision in an open letter to fans.
“This is a really exciting group to be a part of and I’m determined to give everything so that we can finish the season on a high,” the former Ireland international said.