With a distinct lack of experienced handlers to call upon, and a new front-up marking system being trialled on defence, Trinity’s performances against UCD and UCC in the opening games of the Cork Open were decidedly disappointing. In spite of a late rally that gave the scoreline some respectibility, the team were all too aware that it had been a long time since a DUUFC line lost to a Cork team already tipped as possible Intervarsity rivals next spring.
The side’s hopes weren’t exactly high, then, going into their third game against FuF. Irish varsity sides are one thing, but the Belgians were widely acknowledged to be on a different level altogether. Average age, around 27; finalists at Cork last year; decades of experience. On their arms, a simple slogan: “Respect is Due”. As these continental giants bounded onto the field, curly locks shining in the sun like spun gold, it looked like a demoralised Trinity were in for a thrashing.
And yet, Trinity managed to conjure up the intensity and fluidity that had been so conspicuously lacking from the earlier games. A defence that had gifted UCC points like Halloween treats in the previous game suddenly switched on; Trinity capitalised on some basic FuF errors and forced them into even more. With patience on offence, the scores came, and Trinity found themselves 4-1 up against one of Europe’s more formidable clubs. Most importantly, they had also rediscovered their pride.
Daragh Gleeson was at the heart of the Dublin side’s efforts. Arriving at pitchside in a state that could charitably be described as “bedraggled”, he shook off his hangover to deliver one of the best one-day performances ever seen in a DUUFC shirt, and then calmly returned to the team accommodation to slink into a high fever. The Belgians could no more cope with him than a German armoured division. He wasn’t short of willing accomplices, with Ian French running through the pain of a knee injury to pick up a brace and Sam Mehigan providing some divine distributive play from the back to set up scores for Gleeson and Stephen Mahon.
FuF, to their credit, regrouped; not for nothing were they finalists at Cork last year. At 4-4, their experience told, and despite another point from the hobbling French to keep Trinity in touch, they stuck to what they knew and used their pace to grab the vital scores.
It said a lot that Trinity were disappointed to lose the game just 5-7, especially having been deprived of the services of the best player in Irish varsity Ultimate, David Misstear, who was on the sidelines dispensing tactical advice with characteristic calm and humour. Captain French should probably have been with him, given the state of his left knee, but the Irish international dusted himself off to lead his side straight into their crossover game against Voladora. Owing to the peculiarities of the ranking system, Trinity could still proceed to the quarter-finals by beating the Italians.
And, after a slow start, they did just that. Gleeson was untouchable in midfield, and somehow had enough in the tank to turn Voladora over from the pull, gliding in between their handlers for an audacious steal. He scored five points, while Kevin Timoney supplied six scoring passes as Kevin Nagle, Heather Barry and Redmond Scanlon all chipped in.
The reward for this effort was a Sunday morning fixture against the reigning champions, Johnny Chimpo. The orange-clad destroyers had reinforced their claim to be the best side in Irish Ultimate with a win over Broccoli in the group stages, and had taken Trinity to the cleaners during last year’s Open. All the more remarkable, then, that Trinity were able to hold their own. Timoney, a Chimpo man in his spare time, was again provider-in-chief, while Gleeson claimed another hat-trick, along with some crowd-pleasing defensive layouts.
Once again, though, the more experienced club side were able to hold their nerve and grind out the win. A hard-fought 6-10 defeat was further indication of the Trinity’s progress over the weekend; indeed, the same scoreline saw Chimpo defeating Broccoli for the second time of the weekend in the final.
All that remained, then, was to exact revenge over the hosts for Saturday’s humiliation. The second clash with potential Intervarsity rivals UCC was a much more accurate reflection of the two sides’ quality, and it took a Timoney score from Gleeson’s upside down pass at sudden death to seal victory for Trinity by the narrowest of margins, 7-6. Unfortunately, there was no energy left for the 5th/6th playoff with Vision, a group of experienced Liverpudlians – Trinity went down 4-10.
All things considered, Cork ‘08 was certainly a valuable learning experience for all at DUUFC. The second team, predominantly staffed by beginners, were lacking experience even more than their contemporaries due to the relatively recent commencement of Michaelmas Term. Despite gaining valuable match experience they were defeated in each game, finishing the weekend in last place. Meanwhile, the first team’s 6th place finish was an improvement on last year’s 8th, and the fruits of the new defensive system will no doubt be reaped during the All-Ireland Colleges’ League.