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Ulster's Nick Timoney ready to storm Leinster's Dublin fortress


Homecoming: Nick Timoney has fond memories of playing at the RDS Arena
Homecoming: Nick Timoney has fond memories of playing at the RDS Arena

By Michael Sadlier

It's just a throwaway comment, as he dodges and weaves his way through the questioning, but is, nevertheless, indicative of Nick Timoney's outlook on running around the RDS.

Whereas the vast majority of Ulster players know only of pain from their visits to Dublin 4 - only a handful of remaining squad members were there when Ulster won in 2013 for the, so far, only time this century - Timoney has rather better memories thanks to his two Leinster Senior Schools' Cup wins with Blackrock College back in 2013 and the then again following year when he led the side.

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"Personally, I don't think it is the worst place in the world to go to, but it would be good to win there (with Ulster)," says the 23-year-old back-rower before adding some emphasis, "actually, it would be great to win at the RDS.

"They are the team to get one over on."

For Timoney, Leinster's HQ represents something very different. It was where he watched his home province when growing up and where he envisaged possibly wearing the blue jersey.

It was also the place which helped cement his status as a player with a bright future in the game after Blackrock's cup winning exploits.

He then discovered that there was no such thing as a smooth transition from schools star to mainline pro and, with no apparent future with his home province, he switched from Dublin to Belfast to find a more favourable route to earning a living in the game.

As such, he is one of a considerable cadre of squad members at the Kingspan who would dearly like to get one over on the hugely successful province which didn't reckon any of them could cut it at home.

Motivation will certainly not be lacking if these players - along with Timoney, housemate Greg Jones, Alan O'Connor, Dave Shanahan, Eric O'Sullivan and Tom O'Toole all hail from Leinster and have pursued careers outside their province - are given an opportunity to have a crack at those who made it through.

"I went to a good few games (at the RDS) and played some schools' cup games there too," Timoney says without drawing attention to his successes with Blackrock.

"Obviously I would have gone to school with a couple of their players and a good couple I would have played against my whole childhood.

"I know a lot of them quite well," he adds.

Timoney was there last January and came off the bench for Sean Reidy for the last hour as Ulster were given a 38-7 shoeing.

That defeat proved a mere footnote in a season of turmoil at the Kingspan but the general theme of losing to Leinster in Dublin cuts deep.

"They (Leinster) are our biggest rivals and there would be something seriously wrong if we did not have an edge playing against them," he says.

"They seem to take their rivalry with Munster more seriously and they see them (Munster) as a better team than us.

"They are entitled to think what they want, but we are going down there to win, so it will have as much of an edge as we can give it."

With Leinster's many options regarding their breakaway trio, Timoney knows that the challenge this time will be even greater than was the case in last week's difficult evening in Connacht. He does, though, reckon that Ulster have been showing some notable dog in their recent performances and that this will hopefully be unleashed again tomorrow, though with, ideally, rather more consistency throughout the game.

"I think some of the aspects coming through all of the games, even our losses, is that we have been finishing games strongly.

"Dan (McFarland) has been really consistent in what he wants from us and we are definitely on the right track."

Still, for all the talk, this trip looks an undeniably fraught one.

Leinster vs Ulster

Guinness PRO14 Championship

RDS Arena, Saturday, 5.15pm

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