Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Ulster's Andrew Trimble bears all

Tiger feat: Ulster winger Andrew Trimble dives in to score against Leicester in 2012

There could soon be a rival to the most viewed piece of Andrew Trimble footage out there on the web.

The current holder, by some way it has to be said, is his stunning solo try at Bath, in January 2010, when another European season of what might have been was still proving to be the norm for Ulster when it came to breaking into the knockout stages.

Now, though, there is another sequence and, no, it's not the one where he completely missed the ball while trying to hack it ahead in last season's PRO12 semi-final. The new addition came to light a fortnight ago when the 28-year-old enthusiastically joined in the celebrations at Ravenhill of Tommy Bowe's try against Treviso, but in the rather unfamiliar garb of Ulster mascot Sparky.

It was my no means obvious but the giveaway was the rate at which Sparky ran up the line – presumably playing the game subconsciously – as Bowe followed up what proved to be an unlikely looking try from a Paddy Jackson cross-kick and then the sight of the temporary mascot's rather exuberant celebration with his fellow squad members.

"It took it out of me," Trimble now recalls of his rather unusual role.

"The real Sparky said 'you can work away there but it's hot and you might not last that long'.

"I said 'I think I'll be all right' but I lasted 25 minutes and I was really sweating as it was roasting in there," he added with a smile while also noting that, at the time, he got little recognition from his team-mates.

"Tommy (Bowe) wasn't giving me any chat and everyone was ignoring me on the pitch."

While paying much attention to man in a bear suit is hardly ever on the players' agenda during the heat of battle, there is no ignoring Trimble's pedigree when it comes to high achieving on the pitch.

Since making his debut back in 2005 in the then Celtic League, Trimble has made a habit of scoring valuable tries and individually already tops Ulster's scoring list in both Europe and the PRO12. He is also rapidly reeling in David Humphreys' record number of Heineken Cup appearances for the province – after tonight Trimble will equal Paddy Wallace's haul and be four games away from overtaking Humphreys, who played 57 times in the competition.

For all that, though, there is a considerable void to be filled and a nagging itch to achieve rather more meaningful success. True, Trimble is one of a shrinking band of squad members who made off with the Celtic League in 2006 but this is a far from satisfactory return for the centre turned winger.

And with Europe back on his immediate horizon once more, Trimble is again reminded of Ulster's lack of silverware which, ultimately, is the required furniture to accompany a highly successful career.

Yes, he knows what it is like to reach a Heineken Cup final but being on the losing side in 2012 just won't do.

"This could be the last chance to win the Heineken Cup," Trimble says, referring to the off-field politicking.

"Yes, it's something we've always wanted to do and we've got close the year before last but it's definitely something we have to try and achieve."

And after three seasons of making it to the knockout stages, the experienced Trimble knows that huge expectation now comes with the territory and a winning start tonight against Leicester Tigers – Trimble scored twice in the 41-7 slaughter Ulster unleashed on them last time the English giants were here in 2012 – is fundamental to the campaign.

"It's not something we talk about but it's there and, yes, it's an expectation," added Trimble, who won his 50th cap for Ireland over the summer.

"We're essentially now a Heineken Cup knockout side and that's the bare minimum of what we have to get to.

"This year with us being in such a tough group you have to have six outstanding performances to get a quarter-final at home.

"You can't really slip up at all. We did last year (losing to Northampton at home) and it cost us a home quarter-final effectively.

"But first and foremost we must beat Leicester at home and not worry about anything but just winning by getting as many gain-lines as we can, speeding it up and going through the phases.

"Hopefully that will be enough."

One wonders what the real Sparky will do if Trimble crosses the line this time?

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