What are the first things that come to mind when you think of croquet? Top hats and tails? Monocles and mallets? Cult classic film and musical Heathers? These are understandable first reactions and in all honesty, when I sat down with the DU Croquet Club, there would have been little to dismiss those images. Over a pot of tea in The Shelbourne Hotel, I joined three of the club’s committee members for an insight into why croquet deserves to have more of a presence in College.
I started by asking the lads more about how they got into the game. Matthew Martin, the secretary of the club, explained how he had a personal connection to the sport: “My family and I used to play a bit growing up so that’s how I got into the sport,” he recalled, “My brother, John, was actually involved in reinvigorating the club in Trinity about seven years ago and I’m happy to be continuing the family legacy, so to speak.” Through Martin, Thomas Inglis, the master of lawns, and John Lappin, club captain, both got really invested in croquet and were more than happy to join the club’s committee.
For a croquet novice, such as myself, the first thing I needed to know was how croquet works as a sport. Inglis was an adept teacher. “It’s a very modest game played with tremendous passion and heart,” exclaimed Inglis with immense passion. “There are two types of croquet: golf croquet and association croquet. Golf croquet is the easier game to pick up and it’s the type that we play in Trinity. You have four players who take off with mallet and ball. There are six hoops which you play through twice and one peg in the middle. Once a player gets through the hoop, everybody moves onto the next hoop. Each hoop is worth one point.”
“It’s a very modest game played with tremendous passion and heart”
As for association croquet, things were not as simple. “Association is arguably the more tactical version of croquet but we aren’t able to play it in Trinity as things stand,” parsed Martin, with a look of exasperation. “For association rules, the lawn would need to be maintained to a much higher standard, similar to the way the cricket crease is kept; sanding and layering. We just don’t have the facilities for that at the moment.” While the lawns are normally kept in good enough condition for golf croquet, the annual chaos of Trinity Ball tends to throw another spanner in the works. Plastic covers are placed all over the lawns and JCB-like machines leave titanic tyre tracks across the grass. “The covers would be alright,” conceded Inglis “but the tyre tracks are really disruptive and not much is done to repair it in the aftermath”.
Association rules or golf rules aside, there are plenty of reasons for people to try out croquet. “It’s a catalyst for chat,” exclaimed Inglis, his passion for the game evident on his face. “When you’re in the library and see the sun peek out, there’s nothing better than taking 45 minutes on the lawns and shooting the breeze with your mates.” Croquet strikes a good balance as you get to enjoy a competitive game outdoors but there’s no need for changing into a kit or having a shower afterwards. You can go play and then carry on with your day with little to no disruption.
“It’s a catalyst for chat”
Their passion and knowledge for the game would make them excellent teachers for novices, but when it comes to welcoming new players, there are a couple of issues. “In Trinity, there is limited space to play with just the two lawns. Also we only have about eight mallets and some of them aren’t in the best knick,” explained Martin. “We would need to invest in more equipment before we are able to have more players on a regular basis.” For those among you who are desperate to get out there and wield a mallet, don’t fret. “When the weather clears up, we intend to host a Trinity Open Day,” remarked Lappin, “We’ll likely hold it in the Carrickmines Croquet Club as they have plenty of space and are more than happy to have us. Players of all skill levels can come and pay to play in a day long tournament.” While there’s no date confirmed yet, it’s an exciting opportunity for newcomers to get involved in the sport.
The DU Croquet Club shows a different side to the sport and it is a welcome surprise from the stuffy stereotypes. It’s a club based around craic, about enjoying yourself, and about taking some time out of your stressful day to whack a small ball with a big hammer. An effective stress reliever, for sure. And while the club is still finding its feet in Trinity, with the right funding and facilities, paired with the ambition and boundless passion of their current committee, croquet could become a Trinity mainstay in no time.