Hero Quinlan plays down praise from idol Ronan O'Gara
Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30
Tomas Quinlan headed to France a few weeks ago as part of an extended Irish U-20 squad hoping to make enough of an impression to be included in the 28-man group for the World Championships in Italy.
He had played with the Irish U-19s last year but the competition for places is intense and he had to be content with being one of over half a dozen put on a standby list.
That's the real limbo, needing to be ready if a call comes but not really able to do much else for the three weeks when the tournament is on.
Then the call came last Wednesday. Ross Byrne, the regular out-half who had played in New Zealand and started all the Six Nations games, was out of the tournament with a back injury.
Quinlan had little time to get ready. He's as meticulous in his preparation as another No 10 who came out of Cork Con, Ronan O'Gara, but he can't believe all that has happened so quickly - coming off the bench in the dying moments against Argentina in Parma and then kicking the winning penalty from the touchline with the final play of the game.
"Less than 48 hours (after getting the call) I was on the plane and before I knew it I was sitting here on the bench and coming on. So it all happened very quickly but I am very happy," he said.
And the pressure on him to deliver the winning kick was even more when it became apparent he was the player pinged for offside for the penalty which put Argentina in front just after he came on three minutes from the end.
"I gave away a penalty so I felt like I had to do something. I only had a short period of time to get the team back into the game. I got an opportunity and I was lucky enough to put it over," he explained.
"You stick to your routine and just go through the paces and keep the head and trust yourself."
The left-footer trusted himself with the kick from out wide on the right but his first reaction when he watched the flight of the ball was one of horror.
"Usually they go more straight, as opposed to coming in. When I saw it go out my heart kind of dropped then it came back in and I saw it go over and I just put my head down and ran back. It was just the relief more than anything," he said.
The run back was unnecessary because there wasn't time for Argentina to restart and before he knew it, Quinlan had raced up the pitch again and into the welcome coolness of the changing room.
But the world was still spinning. He had gone from kicking his heels at home to kicking a winning penalty in a world championship match live on television.
O'Gara expressed his admiration for the young gun on Twitter, clearly impressed with the ice in the veins of the young man hoping to follow in his footsteps. "It's weird to hear things like that now. That such superstars like himself are tweeting about it. You get a chance and you have to take it," added the former Christians schoolboy.
Quinlan hasn't had time to draw breath in a week and won't get much opportunity now either. The Irish team returned to their base in Brescia on Tuesday night - coach Nigel Carolan and his management stayed on to see pool opponents New Zealand hammer Scotland 68-10 - and have all their attentions on the Scots in Calvisano on Saturday.
Joey Carbery, who crowned his first start with an accomplished display which included landing five kicks from six, is the man in possession of the No 10 jersey, but Quinlan is just thrilled to have answered the call and delivered when it mattered.
"Joey Carbery hit five out of six and I would say he is absolutely delighted as well. His kicking was just as important as that kick, and the same with the boys working around the field," said the Munster academy player.
"They put me in that position and gave me that opportunity and I have as much thanks for them as they do for me so I am delighted.
"Whatever team that goes out the next day it will be just as good. We will put in a massive performance against Scotland. They will be very good, they did us in the Six Nations but hopefully we can just get through."