Thursday 22 February 2018

Trimble still has big part to play for Ireland and Ulster

David Kelly

David Kelly

After Craig Gilroy routed the hapless Fijians in Thomond Park last month, we happened upon someone who is very close, indeed, to the current Irish squad later that night.

Asked to assess the performance of the debutant, our necessarily anonymous informant was rather less than discreet. "Well, that's Trimby gone now, don't you think?"

Declan Kidney wouldn't have come to such a hasty conclusion, despite his occasional acts of hasty exclusion during his time in charge of Ireland – think Malcolm O'Kelly, culled during the Grand Slam season, or Tomas O'Leary, excised despite his contribution in 2009.

And Ulster coach Mark Anscombe certainly did not share this bleak view.

The following week, Anscombe selected Trimble away to Scarlets and he was rewarded with a breakaway try, the decisive score in a gritty 12th successive win of the season.

Then, compelled to select what he would deem to be his strongest side for the crucial away tie in Northampton, the Kiwi repeated the trick, benching the wunderkind and installing the 50-times capped Trimble on the wing.

It was no surprise that Trimble would kick off the rampant scoring on a huge night of achievement for last season's Heineken Cup finalists.

The message was palpable. Gilroy may have, however briefly, eclipsed his provincial rival. But Trimble was not going to go gently into the good night.

Speaking this week about the devastation of being, once more, the odd one out when it comes to Ireland's team selection – Trimble has rarely, if ever, been a first-choice option, despite his half-century of caps – the Coleraine man is determined if sanguine about yet again being forced to prove himself.

This is because, as Ulster's leading Heineken Cup try scorer – 20 in 49 games – breezily declares, that he simply doesn't have to.

"It was tough," he says of his omission from the team that beat Argentina, before watching his young 21-year-old rival stamp his class all over the game on the back of a sensational early try.

"I just really wanted to get out on the pitch again. As much as people will say things that you don't agree with, that may affect your confidence and may affect you mentally, bearing all that in mind, I think I'm a good player.

"I think I still have a lot to give. I think whenever it comes to the big occasions, like Northampton away, I can perform well enough to merit my place. I did that last Friday and I'm looking forward to getting another chance to do that this weekend."

Almost certain to take his place in a familiar back three including the repatriated Tommy Bowe and the rehabilitated Jared Payne, he points to the latter's almost Rolls Royce style of effortless space-seeking and distribution skills as key components to his enjoyment.

"He's great," says Trimble. "I'm really enjoying playing with him. There's a little bit of class about him. I haven't heard the Rolls Royce description before, though!

"But listen, he knows the game so well, he can read everything so well in terms of knowing where the ball is going to be and where there is going to be space. I've really enjoyed it.

"It's taken a lot of pressure off me in terms of decision-making and responsibility. I tend to take his word for things.


"If he's sweeping back towards the other side, I quite often find myself following him, knowing that quite often it's going to be the right option.

"Even when things maybe don't go so well, we have great feedback off those plays and we're determined to get it right the next time. So, I've benefited a lot from playing well with him. That's the same for Tommy as well, so the three of us are combining well."

With 13 wins on the bounce this term, few would back against them making it 14 as they host a debunked Northampton outfit. Modesty infuses Ulster's optimism, though.

"Yeah, we're doing the modest thing, sending out all the cliches of the day. It is buoyant at the moment. It's great to see it.

"We're performing well on the pitch. It's great to see so much enthusiasm.

"What we're doing is being reflected on the pitch."

Irish Independent

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