As everyone is coming to terms with the fact that classes start two weeks earlier this year, Trinity’s top sporting prospects give their predictions, hopes, and aspirations for the upcoming year. After a mixed year of sporting successes and struggles, things appear to be looking up for the Trinity sports clubs.
Dublin University Athletic Football Club (DUAFC) look to build on last year’s success which saw the Freshers team win the Harding Cup and the promotion of the Leinster Senior League Sunday side to Senior Division 1A. This year’s captain, Ronan Hanaphy, gives his thoughts on the upcoming season. One of the main focuses of the season for this year’s captain, Ronan Hanaphy, is the Collingwood Cup. Last year, DUAFC were narrowly beaten in the quarter-finals of the Collingwood Cup by the hosts, and eventual runners-up, Queen’s University Belfast. The Collingwood Cup is the most important competition in the college season, with university teams from both sides of the border competing for the 105-year-old trophy. DUAFC last took home the prize in 1979, so a triumph on the big stage is long overdue.
Hanaphy believes that they can do better this year. He credits this to the fact that they have great squad depth, including many of last year’s Harding Cup squad. Hanaphy hopes for more success for the Sunday Senior League teams and is confident that they can pull off another promotion in intermediate football. He is excited for the year ahead and believes that this is the strongest squad they have had for a while: “Many of the stand-out players this year will be from last year’s Harding Cup winning team, with the likes of James Woods and Dylan Connolly who play their club football in the League of Ireland.”
The young League of Ireland players will be steadied by the likes of seasoned players Dean Gaynor, Chris Straessle, and Brian Foley, who are all returning for their fourth year of seniors action. This mixture of youth and talent is what Hanaphy believes will be the key to success this year for DUAFC: “Many of the Freshers who were part of that Harding Cup squad will play a key part in our 1st XI this year alongside our more experienced players. This combination, and with the addition of some first years, will help us build especially in the College & Universities Football League, where we underperformed last season.”
Meanwhile, DU Ladies Boat Club (DULBC) are going to be very busy over the coming months as they compete in several winter Head of the River races throughout the country. The first focus of the year will be the annual Colours Boat Races against UCD in which the senior team took home the Corcoran Cup this year for the first time since 2015. After Colours, DULBC will be very busy with regattas from April through to the end of July. Susie O’Neill, club captain for this season, believes that the biggest test for the team will be the long winter ahead and the training load they face.
O’Neill says the club has been in a developmental phase of sorts for the past couple of years, but she claims that it is now time to step it up and hit the ground running come March. “I have no doubt in my mind that DULBC will be highly competitive,” states O’Neill when asked on her predictions for this year, pointing out that it is too early to tell how they will fare as they are just starting training. She does mention, however, that they are focused on winning more silverware at the London Metropolitan Regatta and reclaiming the title as overall Best University at the University Championships.
The Trinity Men’s Hurling team are also looking to bounce back from a disappointing season last year. While the seniors battled to claim the Division Two table and gain promotion to the top tier in the All-Ireland League, the senior side failed to escape their group in the Fitzgibbon Cup. With key players performing at inter-county level, club secretary and Fresher’s team selector Leon Breen hopes for an more inspired showing by his charges this year: “Fitzgibbon [Cup] didn’t go too well but we had some decent games in a very tough group and are looking forward to it this year with the hopes of getting out of our group.
“We lost a heap [of players] so they’re going to be tough to replace, but hopefully we’ll get another good batch of Freshers.” The hurlers will be counting on the likes of Fionn O’Riain Broin and Cian O’Sullivan, who are both on the Dublin senior panel. Other important players include Dublin minor players Johnny Walsh, Donnacha Ryan and Luke Corcoran, who all make the jump up from last year’s Freshers team.
Of course, while the clubs prepare for a busy and demanding season, one must remember the distinguished athletes competing in individual sports this year. Aoife Hopkins, a member of DU Sailing Club (DUSC) has enjoyed considerable success this year and as the business end of the Olympic cycle looms large, the Maths student is relishing the opportunity to build on her strong season.
Hopkins was crowned European Ladies U21 Laser Radial Champion in July and clocked in strong performances in the Laser Radial Gold Fleet category at the World Championships in Denmark, last month. Reflecting on her achievements, Hopkins sees her progress as both surprising and encouraging: “It’s still pretty major for me though as I’m definitely one of the younger ones and am racing against full-time athletes, many of whom are already Olympians.”
With the prospect of Olympic qualification on the horizon, the next two seasons become all the more important. Pioneers like Annalise Murphy have offered new possibilities for the Irish sailing delegation, so with the proper guidance, those bound for Tokyo 2020 will be well placed to challenge for a spot on the podium. Hopkins recognises this, hoping that the opportunities before her will drive her towards her goal: “We have a few more opportunities next year to qualify Ireland for the Olympics and that’ll be my focus now for the next few months […] It’s really nice to see that I’ve got the potential to get a really good finish against the best girls in the world and will definitely give me confidence going forward.”
This year looks set to be a successful one for Trinity’s clubs. Let the games begin.
Additional reporting by Cameron Hill.