Search icon


13th Feb 2024

Andrew Trimble stuns viewers with ‘God Save the Queen’ fact about Ireland matches

Patrick McCarry

“I really don’t know how we got here, but I know it really has to change.”

Neil McMamus sat opposite Andrew Trimble, inside the Cushendall club-house of Ruairí Óg, and spoke from the heart about the cultural, political and religious divides that still play such a big role across Northern Ireland.

Trimble, who played rugby with distinction for Ulster and Ireland, was looking to explore his Ulster-Scots roots, and his wider identity, as part of a documentary for RTÉ. McManus, recently retired from Antrim but still playing with his club, told Trimble how hurling was derived from shinty [a game invented by the Celts] but how the world ‘Ulster’ often has connotations with unionists and protestants.

“So,” Trimble remarked, “you stole hurling from us, and we stole Ulster from you? So, it’s even?!”

“I would say we won, to be honest!” McManus shot back.

Andrew Trimble: For Ulster & Ireland delved into how the former rugby star views his own cultural identity, and how others living in Northern Ireland view theirs, and how some people have been pushed towards tribalism thanks to a fraught, bloody past. During the riveting documentary, available to watch on the RTÉ Player, Trimble revealed to Barry Murphy, another retired rugby star, how Ireland used to play every second home ‘Test’ match in Belfast, and even stood for a ‘home’ anthem of God Save the Queen.

Former Antrim hurling captain Neil McManus chats with Andrew Trimble. (Credit: RTE)

Andrew Trimble anthem fact stuns viewers

During the RTÉ documentary, which aired on Monday (February 12), Andrew Trimble asked Barry Murphy, a former Munster and Ireland player, to take a journey around Northern Ireland to meet people from different walks of life, hopefully getting an idea of how they viewed themselves in an ever-evolving country.

Trimble and Murphy are former hosts of JOE’s House of Rugby, and currently host a podcast together called Potholes and Penguins. As the show’s blurb describes:

‘Knowing what a long and divisive shadow political, cultural and religious tribalism has cast across his homeland, Trimble wants to know if key events in his lifetime – The Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement, Brexit and the on-going political turbulence – have changed those attitudes and affiliations.

‘For him, this is a home fixture, but for Barry, seeing the Union Jacks, murals and painted kerbstones of Down and Antrim, he might as well be in a foreign country. Scotland is clearly in sight across the water and Limerick suddenly feels a long way away, but Barry still can’t understand why people whose families have lived on the island of Ireland for centuries should identify more readily with the culture of the island next door, especially when so many more recent arrivals are only too happy to embrace Irishness.’

Trimble met, and chatted with, historians, protestants, catholics, members of the Orange Order, a hurler (Neil McManus), the adult offspring of three political titans: John Hume, Ian Paisley and David Trimble.

He then visited Croke Park with Murphy, as he recalls playing in an historic Ireland win over England – at GAA headquarters – that featured 80,000 people standing in respectful silence for God Save the Queen.

“Up until the 1950s, they used to play alternate Ireland internationals in Belfast and Dublin and, when they played in Belfast [at Ravenhill], they used to play God Save the Queen… that was the IRFU protocol, at the time. It was an all-Ireland rugby team. There was partition in 1921 and that was the compromise.”

“That is an incredible compromise,” declared Murphy. “I could never imagine that happening.”

Murphy was not the only person left stunned by that anthem fact, with social media soon flooded with remarks and reactions.

The anthem that would have primarily played at those Ravenhill games would have been ‘God Save the King’ but ‘God Save the Queen’ – for Elizabeth II – would have played ahead of the Five Nations game between Ireland and France, in 1953.

In 1995, ahead of the Rugby World Cup in South Africa, the IRFU commissioned Phil Coulter to come up with a song that encompassed all four provinces, and was about the inclusivity of different cultures.

He came up with Ireland’s Call, and it has featured in Test matches ever since, and is the sole anthem played when Ireland are away from home. Last weekend, young Stevie Mulrooney gave rousing rendition of the anthem before Ireland’s 36-0 win over Italy.


*Join SportsJOE’s WhatsApp community for first access to news, sports updates, and quizzes. Click on this link to receive news and the latest sports headlines directly to your phone.  You can leave the group at any time.

Related articles: