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'It was unbelievable, I only found out just before kick-off that I'd be playing'

Ulster back row Nick Timoney recalls a whirlwind Sunday which saw him travel down from Belfast to win his second cap for Ireland.

Ireland's Nick Timoney makes a break against Argentina.
Ireland's Nick Timoney makes a break against Argentina.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated Nov 22nd 2021, 12:00 PM

A COUPLE OF weeks ago, Nick Timoney went into a WhatsApp group on his phone, scrolled through to find Andy Farrell’s number, and added him as a contact.

The Ulster player had never actually spoken to the Ireland head coach over the phone, but felt he should maybe add his details to avoid missing a call to an unknown number.

Yesterday morning, that move paid off. Timoney was, in his own words, ‘half asleep’ back in Belfast when Farrell’s name flashed up on his screen at around 7.45am. A little over 10 minutes later, he was pointing his car towards The Shelbourne Hotel.

Jack Conan had pulled out of Sunday’s game against Argentina with a tight quad, meaning Timoney was needed to provide cover. During the warm-up, a whirlwind day took another twist.

“I was pretty relaxed and then I saw Hendy (Iain Henderson) maybe holding his hamstring a bit at the end of the warm-up and I said to Bairdo (Ryan Baird), ‘Here maybe get ready because it looks like Hendy has pulled up with something,’” Timoney explains.

“And he was like ‘I think you should maybe start getting ready as well because you’re going to be on the bench!”

Timoney won his first cap for Ireland in the July win over the USA. Safe to say he didn’t enjoy an ideal preparation for cap number two.

“Luckily I knew it was probably pretty legit when the number (Farrell) came up,” he explains.

“I got a croissant and a protein bar in a petrol station on the way down. I got down as quick as I could.

I actually thought I had more time than I did but I left all my gear on Thursday in my parents’ house so I didn’t have anything to pack so I was sort of in a bit of a rush so I just got down as quick as I could. Luckily there was no traffic it being a Sunday morning so I got down quick enough, packed up my stuff, headed straight for The Shelbourne and met up with the lads and went from there.”

The 26-year-old ended up playing 21 minutes off the bench, chipping in with three carries and four tackles as Ireland dismantled the Pumas in a dominant closing quarter.

“It was unbelievable. I only found out just before kick-off that I’d be playing,” Timoney adds.

“As soon as that happened I had Jack Conan, Tadhg Beirne, Paul O’Connell and all those lads saying, ‘Listen, we understand you mightn’t have everything in your head because you weren’t expecting this’.

“But the first 10, 15 minutes of the game I was just sitting with Jack, he was just talking to me. It was stuff that you know but we were just running through it, just having that calm voice there talking you through stuff was unreal.

“From my point of view it was an unbelievable day to have a group like that to help you out.”

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The only downside of the late call up was that Timoney’s family weren’t there to watch at the Aviva Stadium.

“My cousin was there, but otherwise no (family). Obviously they had no idea, and they were probably watching on TV and probably saw at the end of the warm-up there was an announcement of it.

“I got a few texts (after the game). My good friend David O’Connor was over in my house last night (Saturday) and we were watching the All Blacks, and he was sort of saying, ‘Maybe we could watch the Ireland game somewhere’, either in my house or somewhere else.

“I got a text from him maybe 45 minutes before kick-off and he was like, ‘Here, what’s the craic, will I come over?’

“He obviously realised at some point that I wasn’t responding to him! He was probably annoyed for a few minutes, before realising what happened.” 


About the author:

Ciarán Kennedy

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