Whenever the world’s toughest sports are discussed, one can be guaranteed that the likes of rugby, hurling and boxing will be mentioned. According to ESPN and Sports Illustrated, however, these games pale in comparison to one sport. That sport is water polo.
The nine-time Olympic gold medallist Mark Spitz described water polo players as “having the overarm accuracy of a baseball pitcher, the vertical accuracy of a volleyball player, the toughness of a rugby and hockey player, the endurance of a cross-country skier and the strategy of a chess player”. Baring this in mind, the Dublin University Water Polo club could be considered to house the toughest athletes on campus and the men of the Trinity water polo team are out to prove that this hypothesis is not simply rhetoric.
Trinity Water Polo took a huge stride towards claiming the National League title last weekend as they maintained their 100% win record this season. The team, captained by Californian Iain Fisher, had an air of invincibility around them as they put an imposing 16 goals past Setanta W.P.C. in the National Aquatic Centre in Abbotstown.
The Trinity team has a hugely international flavour with players from the US, France, Germany, England, Spain, Italy and Hungary. It was the third-year Hungarian student Daniel Dalicsek that shined brightest against Setanta, the Budapest native putting four goals past the Setanta team. Dalicsek offered up the game’s most memorable goal with a delightful shot in which he collected the ball off a rebound and back to the goal put the ball flying past the helpless Setanta goalkeeper. There was a bittersweet element to the game however, as the team said goodbye to two stalwarts in Rafa Ramos and Anis Jendoubi, who are both returning home this month.
Jendoubi gave his usual wholehearted performance, controlling the ebbs and flows of the game throughout. Ramos left his mark on the game also, scoring two and drawing a number of major fouls giving the Trinity team powerplay situations. Major fouls, which include dunking, excessive force in a tackle, and pulling, earn the guilty party twenty seconds in the exclusion corner and the opposition a “man–up” situation.
To their credit Trinity were clinical in these situations whereas their northern opponents failed to finish with such precision.
Ramos has been in sparkling form for Trinity this season with a number of crucial performances and goals. The team have been accused of failing to put away the chances presented to them, and with the departure of Ramos this had been a major worry for Fisher and the rest of his team.
The game against Setanta, however, revealed that there is more strength and depth within the squad as Kevin Conway showed everyone that the Irish players were not to be outdone, netting two goals alongside Frenchman Paolo Chevalier. Furthermore the team’s youngest player Christopher Kelly-Rogers has finally shown the form that has been expected of him. Kelly-Rogers was in emphatic form last December as he tore apart both Blackrock and Galway Bay with his speed and precision. Niall Maloney, in only his second season with the club, has proved to many would-be goal-getters that he is not easily beaten. This was strongly reinforced by his performance against Setanta, where he conceded just one.
This confidence-boosting seventh successive victory couldn’t have come at a better time for the Trinity team, as the annual intervarsity tournament takes place in Galway on the 27th and 28th of January.
Head-coach Bert O’Brien is brimming with confidence heading into the tournament and has set his sights on returning to Dublin, trophy in hand. “DIT are our biggest opponents,” stated Christian Wirtz, the Trinity full-back, “if we avoid them for as long as possible we have a real chance.”
Trinity have already welcomed visiting college teams from Maynooth and DCU to the Sports Centre for warm-up games and have come away with handsome victories, so the optimism is not without basis. When asked about the team, Fisher said “the hard work and dedication shown by each and every one of the squad is incredible. We have gelled so well as a team that it makes my job a lot much easier.”
There are just five fixtures remaining in the 2011/2012 National League for Trinity, including two daunting games in Belfast. Rest assured, however, that if the Trinity Water Polo team continue where they left off with Setanta, the National League title will rest on campus next year.
By Daire O’Driscoll