Frustration of Ravenhill focuses minds for Gloucester showdown
It's the time for new year's resolutions and all that kind of thing, but if we can continue 2014 like the second half of 2013, we'll all be more than happy.
After a dodgy enough start to the Heineken Cup campaign it is great to face into the last two games with a great chance of claiming qualification for the knock-out stages.
But we have to be very careful too. A loss against Gloucester tomorrow could have dire consequences, so we have to be on our toes heading to Kingsholm -- and we all know there is nothing given away for free in Gloucester.
By this stage everyone is well over the Christmas celebrations; the tree is down and the tinsel has been consigned to the attic for another 11 months, but for us there is still a bit of the 'Bah Humbug' hanging around after that loss to Ulster.
Parts of the game in Ravenhill were pleasing, especially the way we fought back, but there was still a lot to be disappointed with.
In the end up we lost the game and left without a bonus point. It was a bit frustrating, but you cannot expect to concede that many points and leave that much behind you and expect to get away with anything from Belfast.
We had got ourselves into a great position to get the draw or even a win after a good start to the second half, but we slipped up a bit and they punished us.
If we were more accurate we would have got something from the game. At times we played the game in the wrong areas and Ulster got a couple of their tries from our mistakes. We had looked at that in the preview, we knew how dangerous they could be on the counter-attack and they showed how good they are.
On the bright side our maul and our scrum were pretty strong, but other than that it was a disappointing day at the office. The maul has been good for us all season, though, it's been strong and we've managed to convert that into tries of late. To take my second try of the season -- this one off the back of a maul -- was satisfying.
But prior to the Ulster game it had been a great Christmas for me and the team. Wins over Scarlets and Connacht meant we finished the year on top of the Pro12. And I had the Connacht week off as I was up in the Irish camp again. It was great to be back in there.
I was delighted to be involved in the camp over the Christmas, but it was just half the battle. Right now all my international focus is on making that final squad for the Six Nations but I have to play well for Munster in these few games to cement my position there.
Joe Schmidt and John Plumtree gave me things to work on and I have been making a conscious effort to improve on those suggestions. I think that has been noticed and it has helped me get back into the wider squad, but the match-day squad is where I want to be. There is plenty of work to do.
Not playing against Connacht on December 27 meant I had a bit more time to enjoy Christmas with my family. I went home and had the traditional Christmas with the Kilcoynes.
Thankfully this year went off without incident as last year I was the guilty party that broke the dinner table just before the turkey was served. I have a bit of a habit of ruining everyone's Christmas -- something happened the year before as well -- but this time I was well behaved.
You might ask how someone can break a dinner table, but somehow it wasn't able to cope with the combination of my elbows and the plate of spuds. The whole table had been set out beautifully by my mother and we were just about to eat, but the next minute everything was on the floor.
I wasn't the most popular lad that day and I was well warned this year. It was best behaviour all round though!
But after all the celebrations, all focus was very quickly drawn back to rugby and it's going to be a huge game for us over in Kingsholm.
After the beating they took from Saracens last week on their own patch, there is bound to be a bit of a backlash. Like ourselves, they are a proud team steeped in the traditions of the game, so any time they are beaten by that kind of margin at home there is bound to be a response.
I have never played in Kingsholm before but I am looking forward to it. My dad and six or seven of my uncles are all making the trip over, so it should be a great experience for them all. I don't know if they are going to venture into the Shed at all -- it has the reputation of being a mad spot -- but I'm sure the Kilcoyne clan will enjoy it.
But we can't look past this weekend at all, it's massive for us. If we can pick up the victory it will put us in great shape. Our destiny is in our own hands as we speak and that is all you can ask for. There is huge pressure on this game, but we are relishing the challenge and we are all looking forward to it.