Andrew Trimble adds players' award to haul of honours
Ulster wing wonder Andrew Trimble completed a remarkable few days by notching up a second hat-trick last night in Dublin.
Fresh from his notable hat-trick at Saturday night's Heineken Ulster Rugby Awards Dinner, where he scooped the Bank of Ireland Ulster Player of the Year, Ulster Rugby Writers and Broadcasters' Player of the Year and the Ulster Rugby Supporters Club Player of the Year awards at Belfast's Europa Hotel, he added a fourth honour to that remarkable list when he was named as his fellow-professionals' Player of the Year.
And that marked completion of another treble, for it was his third IRUPA Award overall since their inception 12 years ago. In 2006 he was the Young Player of the Year and in 2010 he was credited with having scored the Try of the Year.
But the Hibernia College IRUPA Players' Player Award is the most coveted of all the personal accolades in Irish professional rugby in that it is voted for by those who are best equipped to adjudicate – fellow-players who know exactly what is entailed en route to top-notch performances.
The warmth of the ovation accorded to the 29-year-old confirmed not only the audience's total acceptance of his entitlement to the honour, but the popularity of the recipient, too.
The tributes were glowing. Omar Hassanein, Chief Executive Officer of IRUPA, told those the 700-strong audience at The Doubletree by Hilton function: "I am really pleased for Andrew. He has forced his way back in to the national team with a bang, and this award is a superb reflection of the stellar season he has enjoyed with Ireland and Ulster Rugby.
"Winning an IRUPA award is the highest honour a player can receive in this country. Andrew and all the winners and nominees should be congratulated for the high recognition they have received."
It has indeed been an outstanding season for a player whose international career had appeared to be over. In the closing stages of his tenure, Declan Kidney had discounted the Ulster player to the point where it seemed he would not win a 50th Irish cap.
Selected to face South Africa in the first of the November 2012 Guinness Series Tests, he was dropped for the remainder of the series having made 49 international appearances. And when the 2013 Six Nations came around, he found himself axed from Kidney's squad for that ill-fated campaign.
But last June, by which stage Kidney himself had been relieved of the job as Ireland's head coach, Trimble found back himself in the frame. He completed his half-century against Canada in Toronto and although he did not feature in any of last autumn's three Test matches – the first under Joe Schmidt's tutelage – injuries to others saw him recalled for the start of the 2014 Six Nations. Trimble grabbed his chance with both hands. An ever-present, he scored tries against Scotland, Italy and France, thereby playing a huge role in helping Ireland to the title.
Expressing his delight at having been chosen by his compatriots, Trimble said: "It is an honour to be recognised with this award, especially as it's voted for by the players.
"It's been a great season and this really tops it all off."
The President and founder of Hibernia College stressed its bond with Ireland's professional rugby players.
Dr. Sean Rowland said: "Hibernia College has formed a very strong relationship with IRUPA, providing scholarship opportunities to players through a combination of flexible online learning approaches and internationally recognised academic programmes.
"It has been an excellent year for Irish Rugby and Hibernia College students Andrew Trimble, Michael Swift, TJ Anderson and Tommy Bowe."
Trimble wasn't the only Ulsterman to receive major recognition at the awards gala. Former Ulster and Ireland prop and captain Simon Best was inducted into the BNY Mellon IRUPA Hall of Fame.