Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) triumphantly returned to the top division of Irish club rugby, All-Ireland League (AIL) Division 1A, in 2016. Since then, their fortune in the competition has been mixed, finishing 6th and 8th in the subsequent seasons. Again this year, Trinity seems to be struggling, as they opened their campaign poorly. However, in their most recent fixtures, there has been a dramatic improvement in their performances, which will hopefully give the side a foothold in the competition going forward.
The opening match of the season saw Trinity travel to Garryowen, where they ran the home team close, losing by only two points and scoring a number of great tries in the process. While the outcome did not turn out the way they wanted, Trinity showed great character in the dying minutes of the game. Having lost a player to the sin-bin, as well as conceding a try, Trinity dug deep and scored a try of their own. An unfortunate miss from the tee was all that stood between the visitors and a well-earned draw. The players will surely be looking to even the score when the reverse fixture comes around, having passed up a great opportunity to gain vital points.
“With his lightning pace and clinical nature, Michael Silvester is a huge boon to the side and the management must be delighted to see him back in the team.”
Back on home soil, Trinity faced University College Dublin (UCD) in an epic Colours clash. Trinity started off in a commanding position in the match, capitalising on some silly mistakes by UCD. They would have been annoyed that they were unable to ground out a winning result. Poor discipline cost the side in the end, giving away a number of penalties that allowed UCD to keep the scoreboard ticking over despite Trinity’s resolute defence.
Trinity’s first big test was against Cork Constitution, one of the powerhouses of the AIL. Currently, in second place, Cork Con were firm favourites and inevitably too strong for Trinity, storming into an early lead that Trinity struggled to diminish. Two late tries helped narrow the margins but there was quite a gap in quality on the day.
Bouncing back from that defeat, Trinity finally got their first win of the season with a hard-fought victory over Young Munster. Michael Silvester returned from injury and scored a hat-trick to give Trinity a comprehensive grip on the game. One particular moment of magic came when Silvester and captain, Colm Hogan, combined on the left wing to score a brilliant breakaway try. While they conceded two late tries, they managed to hold out with 14 men. They followed that up with a comprehensive victory when they travelled to Terenure earlier this month.
“Sport is about two things: the creation of space, and the efficient use of opportunities.”
Trinity certainly have the talent at their disposal to challenge the top sides in the AIL. With his lightning pace and clinical nature, Michael Silvester is a huge boon to the side and the management must be delighted to see him back in the team. Along with his sheer ability, Silvester brings a wealth of experience, with several Leinster A and Ireland U20 caps already under his belt. Colm Hogan has also been excellent on the wing for Trinity this season, while out-half James Fennelly has hardly put a foot wrong with his kicking. Bart Vermeulen has been extremely consistent in the front row, even managing to score a great try against UCD. Max Kearney has impressed with his work at openside flanker. He is a nuisance at the breakdown and his ability to disrupt the opposition and slow down their play is a real asset. Trinity’s forwards have been superb at forcing the opposition to concede penalties and providing the team with a platform to put points on the board. Hopefully, they will be able to develop this skill as the season progresses.
The major issue with DUFC is their finishing, both in converting opportunities into points and their ability to close out games. The team is brilliant at creating plays that open up defences. As Brian O’Driscoll says, “sport is about two things: the creation of space and the efficient use of opportunities”. Although Trinity have great success in the former, the same cannot be said in the latter. Often, when the team are on the cusp of scoring, a player will knock the ball on or drop a pass, thereby taking the sting out of the attack. Whether it is inaccuracy or a lack of concentration is unclear, but the reality is that they need to cut out the unforced errors, as better opposition will prey on these vulnerabilities.
“We’re going to be a really good team; right now, I know we can push on to greater things, but we need to get the lesser teams out of the way first.”
After a shaky start to the season, Head Coach Tony Smeeth has become more optimistic about their prospects. He believes that it is the youth of his side that will prove to be their greatest strength: “They’re a young team, but they’re really physical and tough; we’re going to be a really good team. Right now, I know we can push on to greater things, but we need to get the lesser teams out of the way first…Once we beat them, then we can start looking towards the top end of the table.” Smeeth has a great belief in his young players and sees them as genuine contenders for the league trophy in a few years’ time.
It is a difficult task to analyse a team so early in the season. With only five of 18 matches played, there is a long way to go before we can realistically predict where this Trinity side might end up in the final standings. They are yet to play three of the teams ahead of them in the League and getting results in those matches will be of utmost importance to the players because those are the games that move teams up the table. The back-to-back wins may have been great for morale, but harnessing that energy and turning it into top-rate performances is the next step for this Trinity side. However, one thing about this team is certain – they are full to the brim with character and determination. If they can bring that spirit into their upcoming clashes, these players could produce something special.