Rugby star reluctant to discuss faith

Ulster    and Connacht     during  Friday night's RaboDirect Pro 12 match at Ravenhill.'Picture by Brian Little
Ulster and Connacht during Friday night's RaboDirect Pro 12 match at Ravenhill.'Picture by Brian Little

Ulster and Ireland winger Andrew Trimble, one of the world’s most prominent Christian rugby players, has explained why he is now not so keen to publicly discuss his faith.

The Coleraine-born sportsman said that he had been “pigeonholed” due to speaking candidly about beliefs which are so strong that he studied at Bible college while beginning his rugby career.

The 29-year-old, who is at the peak of his game, scored a try in Ireland’s Six Nations-winning victory in Paris last month, and on Friday night scored his first ever hat-trick for Ulster.

Appearing on RTE’s The Saturday Night Show at the weekend, Trimble said that he had “even forgot to smile” when he scored the try against France due to the pressure of the game, but “looking back, it was a pretty special moment for me”.

Later in the interview, RTE talk show host Brendan O’Connor said to Trimble, whose career has taken off after a period out of the international team: “I know you don’t want to talk about religion; you’ve talked about it a lot in the past and you’re not keen to talk about it, but I’m just thinking that when a turnaround like that [in your career] happens, your faith must play a part in it as well, does it?”

The rugby star replied: “Yeah, I think it does.

“You know, I think my faith gives me a little bit of perspective and I don’t think it’s really a part of playing well or playing badly. I think it’s just something that fits in around whatever condition your career’s in at the time.

“I think it just gives you a bigger picture and helps you remember that rugby isn’t the end of the world.

“I think that’s something that’s quite healthy for me.”

Asked if he didn’t like to talk about his faith as much because he felt people were stereotyping him as “a kind of ‘holy Joe’ character”, Trimble said: “Yeah, I think I got pigeonholed a little bit.

“You know, I bump into people and they think I want to be a priest.”

Laughing, the former Coleraine Inst pupil added: “And I don’t want to be a priest.

“So that’s the image I think I got and I probably wouldn’t really suit.”

Trimble, who has been capped more than 50 times for Ireland, began a physics course at Queen’s University before leaving it to take up Theology at Belfast Bible College, and has often spoken in interviews about his Christian faith.

Addressing a large Christian event in Belfast’s Odyssey Arena which was organised by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2008, Trimble said: “For me there’s nothing more exciting than talking about Jesus and that’s something that excites me a lot more than rugby.”