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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 10 December, 2018

'I never imagined I'd play professional rugby, let alone get called up for my country'

Niyi Adeolokun was plucked from the Ulster Bank League by Connacht, but his form this year earned him a call-up to Carton House.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

NIYI ADEOLOKUN SAYS he never believed he’d become a pro rugby player – never mind get a call up to the latest Ireland squad.

The Connacht wing, 25, has been in brilliant form all year long and was rewarded last week when Joe Schmidt called to him in to Ireland’s mini camp at Carton House.

In his two seasons at Connacht, the former Trinity winger has yet to taste Champions Cup rugby, but he already has four tries from seven Challenge Cup starts to his name.

Barring injury he is certain to start against the mighty Toulouse on Saturday as Connacht make their return to the elite European competition, which will cap off a dream couple of weeks for the Dubliner.

“I got the call from Joe late on Saturday night, but I was chuffed to join up with the boys on Sunday. He tried to call me but my phone didn’t ring. I got a text then and I had to call him back,” said Adeolokun.

“He just said he wanted me to join up with the boys. I just couldn’t believe it. I was extremely nervous but delighted to link up with the lads.

“It was a bit intense, I had to learn the calls and moves very quickly. But it was still quite enjoyable and everyone was really supportive. I always have stuff to work on with Connacht, I have to keep doing that and get my work-rate up.

“A couple of years ago I’d never imagined I’d play for Connacht or play professional rugby let alone being called up for my country with the Irish guys. I was absolutely chuffed with that.

“But that’s not my main focus, I want to play for Connacht and do well. Anything that comes off the back of that is a bonus.”

Cian Kelleher and Niyi Adeolokun celebrate Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Since his arrival at the club Adeolokun has been streets ahead of the rest of the squad when it comes to straight line speed. But now, another Dubliner appears to have taken his mantle.

Cian Kelleher was untouchable against Ulster with two tries for Pat Lam’s side, and Adeolokun has no issue playing second fiddle.

“Cian is absolutely electric. He has smashed the GPS record this season as well. He is so quick out of the blocks. I’m not too ashamed to say it, yeah he is a lot quicker than me this season.

“Since I’ve been here there has always been a lot of competition in the back three, and that hasn’t changed. Everyone is playing well. We were unfortunate to lose Matt Healy to injury, but Cian has come in and had a blinder on Friday night.

“This is going to be a great test against Toulouse, but we’ll be focused on doing our job. We know if we keep the ball and try to do what we do best that it will stand to us,” he said.

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Daragh Small

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