Nick Timoney made his first appearance of the season against the Dragons on Friday night, delivering a powerhouse performance that helped Ulster claim their fourth consecutive win in the GUINNESS PRO14.
Man-of-the-match Nick Timoney played a key role in the 52-25 bonus point defeat of the Welsh side at Kingspan Stadium, but feels that there is still much room for improvement.
“I was happy enough with my performance. I still made a few mistakes on the smaller things so I wasn’t in perfect form but I was happy enough,” said the 22-year-old, who now has four Ulster caps to his name.
“We’ve got some really good back rows in the squad this year and trying to compete with them, even in training, is helping me grow. I just want to keep getting better and if I’m not in the squad then I’ll try to push the playing team each week to be to a point where they’re ready to play.”
Timoney delivered an impressive all-round performance, contributing two of Ulster’s eight tries on the night, including a fine individual effort that could be linked to his exploits with the Ireland Sevens team over the summer months.
“Playing Sevens for Ireland was a great experience. It helped me grow in a few ways that I hadn’t been exposed to before and you could say that it helped with my second try,” he acknowledged.
The 22-year-old Dublin native is now in his third year at the Abbey Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy, and he is enjoying mixing it with the senior players in the provincial set-up.
“Ultimately, the goal of the Academy is to prepare boys to play at the senior level and that’s where I want to get to – to be playing in the senior squad on a regular basis. I got a couple of small opportunities last year off the bench and that gave me a taste of it.
“And his season I got some of the pre-season games. It was fantastic for me to be able to get my first 80 minutes (against the Dragons) and to compete at that level pretty well but there is still a lot that I want to achieve.”
Changes to the coaching structure saw Jono Gibbes, Aaron Dundon and Dwayne Peel join Ulster over the summer and Timoney feels that this has brought fresh insights and different experience to bear on the players, which has had a positive impact on team cohesion.
He added: “Jono is good. He tells it like it is which can sometimes be difficult to hear but it’s what we need. I’ve learned a lot from him. He was a second row/back row but he knows a lot about our positions in the back row and helps out with lots of things.
“I’ve also learned a lot from the players, Chris (Henry) in particular has been a massive help to me. He is always willing to make sure the young guys know what they’re doing as well. But all the back rows, we all help each other. I’m just delighted to be part of it.”
With strong competition for positions among the squad, Timoney is focused on working hard and being patient for his opportunity. “There are lots of internationals and really experienced back rows in the squad. But there also younger, less experience guys coming through, guys like Matty (Rea) who is unbelievable as well and has had a really good start to the season,” he noted.
“We’re all competing with each other, pushing each other, helping each other and it’s a really good environment for us at the moment. The last few weeks have flown by and we’ve been training hard. I travelled with the squad to Italy and had a club game for Banbridge last week, so I didn’t feel like I’d been out of action too long when I got the opportunity to start.
“To be honest, I hadn’t really seen it coming but when I saw my name on the teamsheet I was delighted and couldn’t wait to get going. It is tough when you’re not picked.
“But, as a squad, we’re all working hard for each other and even if I’m just contributing in training then that’s what I’m happy to be doing. To get my first start, though, is definitely worth the wait.”