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It hurts to know Ulster flopped and let down so many fans, says Trimble

Ulster v Leinster, Guinness PRO12 Championship: Kingspan Stadium, Saturday, 5.15pm

By Jonathan Bradley

With their season petering out to a meaningless end for the first time since 2010, it's not only on the pitch where Ulster have struggled through a testing year.

Even if recent seasons haven't brought any silverware, it is something else altogether to fail to even reach the knockout stages of any competition, and players have admitted to a strange atmosphere around the Kingspan this week as they prepare for a dead-rubber with Leinster tomorrow (5.15pm).

As such, supporters and pundits alike have been lining up to have their say on just why the team has underachieved to such a degree this year.

But even if the growing rewards available through professional rugby can sometimes make a growing disconnect between the pitch and terraces seem inevitable, captain Andrew Trimble says the squad are all too aware there are those who have felt let down by performances this year.

"It's tough, it's tough to deal with," he said of the negativity surrounding the team from the outside at present.

"In some ways it makes you dig in and pull together to become a closer unit. In other ways, it potentially makes you try too hard to prove people wrong.

"There's more desperation there and maybe that desperation leads to a lack of composure at times in games.

"But yeah, it's tough to take. There is certainly no lack of effort in this team, there is a lot of heart and character.

"Execution levels aren't good enough, maybe our skill level isn't good enough. Our mental resilience at times when we're up against it, maybe that needs to be worked on.

"You can say all of these things and you can find an example to prove a few of them but the one you couldn't say is that there is no heart in this team.

"This team, probably to our detriment, try too hard at times to be as good as we can be. That desperation is maybe an issue as well. But that's the one criticism I don't think is valid."

When it comes to other accusations, such as the one this week from former Ireland out-half Tony Ward that this is a team consistently less than the sum of its parts, Trimble admits there can be little argument, nor will there be until results turn around.

"Yeah, well we haven't won a trophy in 11 years," he said.

"We've definitely had plenty of opportunities: two finals, a handful of knockout games and we've never kicked on.

"Whenever the pressure comes on we've not stepped up to the level required. It's a shame to have to agree with that but we haven't fulfilled our potential as of yet.

"If it happened for one season, two seasons, potentially three, you could say we've been unlucky. But if you're unlucky consistently, it gets to the point where you can't keep saying it.

"Bounces of the ball, referees' decisions, not having everyone available, people get tired of listening to that.

"People just don't believe that after a few years. You can say you're unlucky but when it continues, you've got to look at yourselves.

"You have to be honest and say 'something that we're doing is missing'.

"A lot of what we're doing is good, but that doesn't matter if you're not getting over the line.

"There have been a couple of seasons where we've had an outstanding group of players and we haven't achieved and won anything. The squad we have now is a squad that's good enough to win things.

"Potentially, that fear factor or desperation might be what we need to kick us on.

"If we don't achieve something, we might not fulfil our potential and that would be a massive shame for guys that have been here for a lot of years."

While nothing that happens tomorrow against Leinster will erase the frustration of this lost season, Trimble is optimistic the sight of their inter-pro rivals, who again are at the level Ulster only aspire to reach, will spark something in a team looking to finish a frustrating campaign on a high.

"You'd like to think that when it does click it will become a lot easier with that momentum on your side," he said. "But for us at the minute it's very difficult. It's been a tough week looking back, but I think the right solution to a tough week is to have the Leinster game.

"We're looking forward to that. Everything goes out the window and it's just inter-provincial rivalry. We're looking forward to it and hopefully creating something positive to finish the season on."

Meanwhile, Ireland yesterday confirmed their plans for this year's Autumn internationals.

Starting on November 11, South Africa, Fiji and Argentina will visit the Aviva Stadium on successive Saturdays.

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