Captain joy for Ulster’s Nick Timoney

Being handed the Ulster captaincy away to the Dragons has capped a remarkable 18-month period for backrow Nick Timoney.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 9:00 am

In November 2020 the Dublin native was struggling to make an impact at Kingspan Stadium and failing to make the first team on a regular basis.

An injury to Marcell Coetzee gave Timoney a chance to prove himself and he literally grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

He was Ulster’s most consistent player in the back end of that season and rewarded with an Ireland cap over the summer series.

Ulster’s Nick Timoney. Pic by PA.

Timoney has continued his great run of form this term and added another international cap in the autumn plus is part of Andy Farrell’s Six Nations squad.

The former Ireland 7s player is closing in on 100 appearances for the province.

“I had to take a really good look at myself 15 or 16 months ago because things certainly weren’t going as I would have hoped, I wasn’t getting much of a game or even a look in,” said Timoney. “I had to take responsibility for that, not blame anyone else.

“I looked to the coaches and I looked to the other players and tried to make myself better...that mindset has really helped me.

“Now, obviously I can’t complain about my position in the squad, I’ve been playing consistently and now picked as captain.

“I’m delighted with that but I’m going to keep that same mindset and take responsibility for all those things.

“If things aren’t going as you want maybe you start by looking at yourself and things start to go a bit better.”

It had been a long time since Timoney skippered any side and being handed the Ulster armband was unexpected.

“The last time I’d have captained a side would have been my last time at school, I’ve not captained a team since...so that’s eight or nine years ago which feels a long time now, but I’m happy to do it and it’s something that I enjoy it,” he said. “Just before the team announcement Dan (McFarland) called me over and asked me.

“Normally when Dan calls you over before a team announcement it’s because I haven’t been in the ‘23’.

“It was nice, I was completely surprised but delighted to do it...it was a pretty proud day for me.”

The added responsibility didn’t change much about Timoney’s game.

“People are looking at you a bit more in the decision-making around penalties,” he said. “I said to myself that I wouldn’t try and change too much.

“If you feel like you have to change a lot to be captain then maybe you shouldn’t have been picked as captain in the first place.

“I tried to be myself...in the decisions you get involved more but, in general, nothing was too drastic.”

Timoney has returned to the Ireland camp in preparation for Sunday’s Six Nations clash with Italy.

“It’s been good, I really enjoy it down there,” he said. “There’s so much to learn through all the new faces, the new voices and the new ideas.

“When you’re in a place for a good amount of time like I’ve been at Ulster, you’re still learning and you’re still improving - but that change in scenery, where you can challenge all the things that you think you know and think you’re doing properly...from that point of view it’s been great and it’s been great to get back up with Ulster and get that bit of game-time in between.

“For anyone in the squad you want to play but we’ll wait and see how that goes, I’m enjoying the process and experience.”