Andrew Trimble: ‘Rugby is my passion - I never thought I was going to be this lucky’

Ulster Rugby star Andrew Trimble. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Ulster Rugby star Andrew Trimble. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
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  • Ulster Rugby’s most capped player, the multi-talented Andrew Trimble, talks to HELEN MCGURK about the sport, his faith and the toughest job of all - being a dad.

Before our interview Andrew Trimble wasn’t chasing an oval-shaped ball or bulldozing his way down a rugby pitch, rather he was in a supermarket in hot pursuit of his fleet-footed two-year-old son Jack after the youngster decided to go for an amble.

‘‘He just ran off - he’s the full length of the shop away from you and he doesn’t even look round,’’ he says with a look of amused bafflement.

Andrew and his wife Anna

Andrew and his wife Anna

On the pitch Andrew Trimble, the Ulster and Ireland Rugby winger, is known for his tenacity and try-scoring prowess, off the pitch he’s husband to Anna, a trainee GP, and dad to Jack and eight-month-old Molly.

Life is busy. As well as his rugby career, Trimble has just finished a Masters in Finance, he’s moving house after Christmas, and of course, no one would say having two children under the age of three is a cinch.

He concurs: ‘‘It was really tough for the first while, but it’s great now. Molly is starting to sleep through the odd night, she’s easy - no bother at all.

‘‘Jack’s a wee boy, running around causing trouble, running off, not listening to a word we say. But he’s great fun,’’ he smiles.

Andrew Trimble and his son Jack

Andrew Trimble and his son Jack

By this stage of their career, rugby players’ faces normally have the beaten, craggy look of Mount Rushmore. Trimble’s, on the other hand, looks positively unscathed and younger than his 33 years. Neither is his build that of the stereotypical beefcake rugby player; he’s much leaner, which he puts down to being ‘‘reasonably sensible’’ about what he eats.

‘‘Some of the bigger fellas really have to be much stricter with their diet,’’ he says.

‘‘So they don’t get pudgy?’’I ask.

‘‘So they don’t get pudgier,’’ he laughs.

Andrew Trimble grew up in Coleraine - the accent is still discernible - alongside his sisters Angela and Alison.

‘‘Three As - mum (Margaret) thought they would be quirky, I suppose,’’ he laughs.

He attended Coleraine Inst, as was, and as a youngster was immersed in rugby culture - indeed the sport seems embedded in his DNA.

‘‘My mum was a tennis player and my dad (Maurice) was a rugby player - so it was going to be one or the other - and I wasn’t very good at tennis.’’

What he is very good at is rugby.

Trimble was named Ulster Rugby Player of the Year in 2006 and BT Irish Rugby Union Players Association’s newcomer of the year. He has the gravitas of being the most capped Ulster player of all time with 224 appearances- something of which he is immensely proud.

‘‘It’s a big, big honour.’’ he says.

‘‘You pour a lot into a career playing rugby and week in, week out, trying to perform, under pressure and going through tough times. And then you go through big wins with the team and it means a lot to me that I’ve done that more than anybody else - just for now, but I’m sure that will be overtaken by a few of the young fellas who started younger and have played more consistently than I have. This club means a lot to me. My dad took me to a lot of Ulster games when I was youngster.’’

Did he ever imagine he’d be where he is now? ‘‘I always imagined, but I didn’t know how realistic it was; it was the only thing I was really passionate about in terms of a career. I always wanted it, but I didn’t know I was going to be this lucky.’’

The highlight of his career he says was ‘‘definitely 2014, when we won the Six Nations.’’

‘‘That year we went really well as a team. We won the championship and I was in the middle of it, I felt like I was doing my bit. It was a really good feeling.’’

The low points are when he receives an injury. ‘‘There was a period of a couple of years when I was sitting on 49 caps for Ireland and I thought that I would never get to 50 caps - and the previous Irish coach didn’t really rate me fairly highly and I just struggled with confidence.’’

Trimble says he is reasonably resilient in terms of knock-backs, but rugby players are as emotionally susceptible as anyone else.

‘‘The perception is that we are all macho, you just shake it off, but there’s a lot of pressure.’’

Trimble is an engaging and likeable character, who speaks with candour and humour. He admits that when he went to study Physics at Queen’s as a 19-year-old he was pretty lazy in terms of his studies. After a year he ditched the science subject in favour of something totally different - a Theology degree.

He’s aware of the lack of symmetry between the two subjects, but says: ‘‘Theology was something which grabbed me a bit more.’’

‘‘Theology was very interesting. My problem was because I was part-time it took me seven years to finish the degree, so by the end of it it was starting to drag - but I got a lot out of it.’’

He is unsure the trajectory his career will take after rugby - but says: ‘‘None of us are in a position where we can hang our boots up like a footballer. That’s the reason I was studying - although I think even if I was earning like a footballer I’d still be interested in doing something to make the most of myself and keep myself busy.’’

He’s contracted until June 2019, so it gives him a bit of time to weigh up his options. ‘‘Then who knows, I may or may not sign again. I’ll be coming 35 at that stage. I don’t know what I would like to do. I’ve hosted a few events in the past and I really enjoy that.’’

Outside or rugby, Trimble enjoys playing the drums, watching box sets and socialising with his team members, when time permits.

‘‘I enjoy spending time with a few youngsters and being a bit childish myself and then getting together with the older boys and talking about our mortgages and our children,’’he laughs.