It was the first hat-trick of Tom O’Flaherty’s professional career, so when he finished spinning the rings around Glasgow last weekend, the Exeter wing didn’t think to take home a memory.
“Oddly enough, Jonny Gray asked me this week if I had kept the ball,” he said. “But I didn’t even know it was a tradition, so I didn’t keep it. Not much really happened, I just went to the pub, had a few beers and played some pool. That was about all, nothing to mark the occasion!
It was a typical scenario for the 27-year-old Londoner; outstanding work for his club, without too much noise or fanfare.
Tom O’Flaherty scored his first professional hat-trick as Exeter dominated Glasgow last week
O’Flaherty has been a mainstay in the Chiefs’ trophy era in recent years, but is not part of the growing Devon contingent that have won international honours.
There has been no contact from Eddie Jones and, given his name, there could be a perception that he could represent Ireland, but that is not the case.
“No, I’m not Irish,” O’Flaherty said. “Just English – and I’m probably qualified for Jamaica, on my dad’s side of the family. I think they did well at Sevens, so that might be an option. That’s definitely something to explore.
If a call came from the Caribbean nation, it would add another layer to a fascinating and unorthodox sporting life. Despite becoming a talented prospect at famed Dulwich College, O’Flaherty didn’t follow the familiar path from school to academy to the club’s first team.
O’Flaherty has been a mainstay of the Chiefs’ trophy era in recent years
But the winger hasn’t joined some of his Exeter teammates in Eddie Jones’ England squad
O’Flaherty admitted he would consider playing for Jamaica Sevens if they called
On Saturday he will be back in familiar territory – serving for Exeter against the French club where he spent an enjoyable season, while studying the language at Cardiff University.
“I haven’t been back to Montpellier since I lived there, that is six or seven years ago,” O’Flaherty said. “I can’t wait to see some of the guys I used to know and see how the city has changed.
“When I was there, it was first to study, then rugby. I did a French degree. For language courses, which last four years, you spend the third year in the country. There were a few options, but everyone wanted Montpellier because it’s in the south of France! I was lucky to get it.
“Once I found out I was going there I had to think about what I was going to do rugby-wise and luckily for me I was able to play for Montpellier Espoirs, the reserve team. . I liked it.
The 27-year-old will face his former side Montpellier in the Champions Cup on Saturday
“I like the French way of life. They seem to enjoy things more. The sun helps, but they have a more laid back attitude and a different work-life balance.
The passage to Montpellier punctuated his schooling – academic and sporting – in Wales. He played for Cardiff University, Cardiff RFC and Bridgend Ravens in the Welsh Premiership before ending up at the Ospreys when England flanker Sam Underhill was there.
“They lived together for a summer, before crossing the border again; O’Flaherty in Exeter and Underhill in Bath.
O’Flaherty (left) played rugby for Cardiff University while studying in the Welsh capital
“I loved playing united rugby,” O’Flaherty said. “You play with your friends and have a drink afterwards, and you go out as many times as you want.
“In my second year I played for Bridgend on Saturdays and loved that too. I look back on those days fondly.
“When I was in college we played the SWALEC cup against a team from somewhere in the valleys. ‘a maul after being choked. They weren’t looking too fondly at us college students, as you can imagine!”
During his gap year, the winger traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Fiji.
O’Flaherty did things his way. He was never in the academy or the age group system. After finishing at Dulwich, he helped out there during his gap year and played for nearby Blackheath in National League 1, before traveling to New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Fiji.
Even now, while reveling in his day job – especially the ultimate pinnacle of winning the European Champions Cup in 2020 – O’Flaherty retains the same old sense of adventure. “I like to do a bit of spearfishing and surfing,” he said. ‘Any opportunity that I might enjoy, I just go for it.
“When I came to Devon I had never heard of spearfishing, but Greg Holmes – an Australian – said ‘I think it would be nice to go spearfishing around here’, so I jumped with him. In the summer, it’s quite abundant around here.
On land, for O’Flaherty, the winters are also quite mild.