It has been quite the season for Michael Lowry.
The 20-year-old Abbey Insurance Academy player has featured 15 times for the senior side, including a European Champions Cup quarter-final appearance - now he is set to play in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.
Ulster will meet Connacht on Saturday evening at Kingspan Stadium (5:35pm) in a semi-final qualifier with the winner going forward to meet Glasgow on May 17 at Scotstoun in the semi-finals.
His debut came against Munster in September last year, a game where Ulster suffered a record breaking loss to their Provincial rivals.
But the squad have come a long way since then including an impressive European Champions Cup campaign which saw them win five from six games - Lowry involved in four of them - which culminated in a narrow quarter-final loss to defending champions Leinster 21-18 in a packed Aviva Stadium.
Lowry was one of the Academy hopefuls being talked about long before he made his debut. However, an injury saw him miss out playing in his first year - but he has certainly made the most of his opportunities when they have arisen.
Agreeing it has been a good year, Lowry said at a Kingspan Ulster media press briefing: “Yeah, going from not playing at all in my first year of the Academy, to playing a good bit of rugby.
“Obviously I have had a few niggles here and there, but I think it has been a successful one in terms of actually playing some rugby at a good level.
“It has been really enjoyable actually. I have been given an opportunity to go and play and just have a go. I have loved every minute of it,” said Lowry, who had suffered osteitis pubis (groin/hip problem) last year.
Ulster hit their straps for the European Cup quarter-final and showed what they were capable of, even if the result did not go their way.
Tomorrow night they have the opportunity to back it up by winning another play-off game.
“I think after that ECC quarter-final we were really hurting, it is something we have learned a lot from,” insisted Lowry.
“It is the first time that group of players have been in that situation but I think that hopefully stands us in good stead playing that.
“It has made us more hungry for success, it has certainly made me more hungry for success and get a bit of silverware down the seasons.”
“Hopefully we can bring that from the ECC game to this game. We still have a long way to go there is a lot we can improve on, that we are a team maybe who are on the up there is still a lot we can do to make the season better.
Although Lowry was not involved in the double Connacht defeats this season, he believes the squad have moved on and improved.
“I think after defeats like that (Leinster) Munster (away), and Connacht are the ones that really hurt you.
We are still in a great position now to have a go at finishing the season on a high.”