"You stood up for me; I only hope that I stood up for you" - Andrew Trimble
Ulster winger Andrew Trimble is set to retire from professional rugby at the end of the current season.
The 33-year-old, Ulster's most capped player of all time, announced his decision on social media on Thursday afternoon. He joins team-mates Tommy Bowe and Paul Marshall in bringing the curtain down on a long career at the end of the current season.
Coleraine man Trimble has made 229 appearances for his province, scoring 77 tries, but will likely have one game remaining, against Ospreys in the Champions Cup play-off at Kingspan Stadium on May 19.
"I know that I've been incredibly fortunate to have realised not one of my dreams, but two of them; to play for Ulster and to play for Ireland," he said.
"These have been some of the most fulfilling days of my life and I feel nothing but gratitude for them.
"But there's no way of stopping time - and I see that each day in the lives of my two young children, who are now close to beating me over five metres.
"So I wanted to let you know that this will be my last season playing professional rugby.
"I want to thank the club for allowing me the time and space to think things through before making what is probably the toughest decision that any professional sportsman will make.
"Most of all, I want to thank you - the loyal and dedicated supporters of this special club.
"I know that nothing will come close to the experience of taking the field and hearing you raise your voices in support of the team.
"You stood up for me; I only hope that I stood up for you."
Trimble has 70 caps for Ireland, scoring 17 tries. He started every game of the victorious Six Nations campaign in 2014, scoring tries against Scotland, Italy and France. He played at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, missing the 2015 tournament through a late injury.
Ulster Rugby Operations Director Bryn Cunningham heaped praise on the retiring winger:
"Andrew has been a class act both on and off the pitch," he said. "He has been a great ambassador for Ulster Rugby, having done much to promote our work in the community and to inspire future generations of rugby players from across the nine counties.
"I was still playing here when Andrew first joined the squad and it's been fantastic to follow his journey to becoming the highest-capped Ulster player of all time - a remarkable achievement. He has delivered some incredible performances in both the Ulster and Ireland jerseys over the years and he can be justifiably proud of his playing career.
"I know that Andrew will be successful in whatever career he chooses next, and I wish him, Anna, Jack and Molly well in this new chapter for them."