Andrew Trimble and Barry Murphy bring podcast double act to awards stage

After surviving RTÉ’s Ultimate Hell Week the duo will present Zurich Irish Rugby Awards

 

The Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble double act knows no bounds. Co-hosts of the quirky podcast Potholes & Penguins, the former Irish internationals have each survived RTÉ’s Ultimate Hell Week and lived to tell the tale, so they should look a natural fit to present the virtual 2021 Zurich Irish Rugby Awards on Friday.

Murphy has also harnessed his other passion, that of music, as a bass player and a singer in Hermitage Green while Trimble has become an entrepreneur, co-founding the Belfast-based sports technology company Kairos which has developed an app to help clubs and athletes.

But rugby, after all, should still be their area of expertise, even if they have branched out since retirement.

Tadhg Beirne, Tom Daly, Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw have been shortlisted for the Zurich Men’s Players’ Player of the Year 2021, while the shortlist for the Zurich Women’s Players is made up of the Munster duo Eimear Considine and Dorothy Wall, along with Leinster’s Stacey Flood and Connacht’s Beibhinn Parsons.

Beirne and Henderson are rival locks, and Daly and Henshaw rival centres.

“Tadhg Beirne has been for me Munster’s best player for the last couple of years,” says Murphy, citing his work over the ball, penchant for big plays and form for both Ireland and the Lions. “He’s just such an incredible athlete, unbelievable work-rate and an intelligent rugby player as well.”

Although Henderson started ahead of Beirne against the All Blacks, Murphy liked that balance.

“Hendy doing the donkey work and then Tadhg’s firepower off the bench excited me. I think that’s a key factor in the Bomb Squad, or the finishers, and we potentially haven’t got that right in the past. So I liked that decision.”

“Ulster supporters were all delighted because Hendy is our shining light up there,” said Trimble. “He’s been a little plagued with injuries but when he plays he makes a massive impact.

“He’s a leader, calls and dominates the lineout, and he does the basics as well. He’s matured nicely since my day and he’s filled out that man-child frame,” said Trimble, who retired in 2018 and won this award in 2014.

Andrew Trimble won the Irish player of the year award in 2014. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho
Andrew Trimble won the Irish player of the year award in 2014. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho

Daly’s presence on the shortlist alongside Henshaw underlines the depth chart in Ireland’s midfield, where Trimble cites Chris Farrell Stuart McCloskey and now James Hume being so restricted by Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and Henshaw.

“During the Six Nations Henshaw was incredible and took that form into the Lions”

Murphy also believes Henshaw’s best position is ‘13’, while both maintain he could still play ‘15’ too, despite the evidence of Ireland’s defeat by England in the opening 2019 Six Nations loss against England.

“Things didn’t go well that day and he got the blame,” says Trimble, “but I think that’s a completely lazy narrative. He could easily play ‘15’. That’s where he began with Connacht before people started mucking around trying to turn him into the next O’Driscoll.”

Despite Connacht’s own array of midfielders, Daly played in 23 of their 26 matches last season, and started 21 of them.

Murphy highlights Connacht’s 35-24 win at the RDS last season. “He had everything that night; line speed, ball carrying. He’s a good distributor, he can kick, he can slot in at ‘10’ and he looks like a big leader for them.”

Both were as enthused as anybody by Ireland’s performances in the Autumn Nations Series.

“France beating the All Blacks so comprehensively maybe checked Ireland getting carried away but then maybe it allowed the northern hemisphere to get carried away,” noted Trimble in typical style. “But South Africa were a good bit better than England and were unlucky not to win, and Australia mightn’t have been beaten but for that red card against Wales.”

“From an Irish perspective it could change very quickly if we don’t beat Wales first up in the Six Nations, and we know what Wales are like going from autumn to Six Nations, they are a different team altogether.

“Then we have to go Paris and then London, and then we have to go to New Zealand for three tests, so let’s get carried away while we have it.”

But Murphy has never seen an Irish team play in a manner like that.

“They are the best three back-to-back performances I can remember from an Irish side, so different, so varied and the skill level was so good. The players seem to be loving the buzz and when you think back to where we were for most of last year’s Six Nations, I’m delighted for that coaching squad. It’s just a style of rugby that we’ve never played. So hell yeah, let’s get excited.”

Which brings us to Ultimate Hell Week, far removed from playing rugby.

“Stringer being a weirdo and a genetic freak it was pretty similar to playing rugby,” quips Murphy. “Nah look, it was a once in a lifetime experience. Hard to compare with rugby. Maybe Joe Schmidt In Hell Week might be similar!”

Trimble found it tough both physically and mentally.

“You were hungry, you were tired. For me the thread of the whole week was the stress. You were always worried you had the wrong stuff, or in the wrong place or were wearing the wrong gear. This was 24/7 and if you didn’t get it right you were shouted at, doing squats and press-ups.

“I explained this somewhere and someone said: ‘Do you not remember Joe Schmidt’s ‘walk-throughs’ on a Wednesday night?’ Yes, but Joe Schmidt never burst into the room in the middle of the night, threw a firework at you and said ‘you’re going into the well’.”

The podcast has been the polar opposite.

“We enjoy chatting about rugby, but we also like chatting about music, movies and things,” says Trimble. “That lands with some people who don’t want to be too analytical about rugby.”

Murphy recently released his song in memory of former teammate Anthony Foley, Alone You Stand, which was launched at half-time in the Ireland-New Zealand game.

Barry Murphy wrote a moving song in tribute to Anthony Foley which was released during the recent Ireland-New Zealand game. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Barry Murphy wrote a moving song in tribute to Anthony Foley which was released during the recent Ireland-New Zealand game. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

“Sometimes when you write a song you don’t know whether you’ll ever release it to the world. Sometimes it’s just for you, a cathartic experience, and that’s how it started for me.

“But his sister Orla asked me would I put a song toward a charity and I had the bones of that one. It’s a tough process to tap into what Axel would have meant to a lot of other people but I realised I needed to write something around what he meant to me.”

He describes watching it being played on the big screen at the Aviva Stadium as “an outer body experience”, albeit he adds with a chuckle: “I’m sure Axel would have hated the attention drawn to him. But that’s what I loved about him so much.”

* Andrew Trimble and Barry Murphy are hosts of the 2021 Zurich Irish Rugby Awards which will take place on Friday December 3rd via Facebook Live on the Rugby Players Ireland Facebook page. This year, nine awards will be handed out, including the prestigious Zurich Irish Men’s Player of the Year Award and Zurich Women’s Player of the Year Award.

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