The Commentary Box

The sporting year at Trinity has already begun, doubtless another year full of highs, lows, and not being all that good.
We are not at quite the top level in any of the major sports. We boast a rugby team in the AIL Division 2, a hockey team in the Leinster division 2, and a soccer team in Major 1D of the Leinster Senior league – whatever that means. Some of this may be down to the simple fact that, as noted in the account of our boat club’s recent success elsewhere in this issue, we play only students, so turnover is high and teams will never be 100% settled.

“Maybe our priorities are all wrong – all this academic excellence nonsense is getting in the way of kicking ass.”

Fair enough. But other universities deal with this, and do pretty well for themselves. Besides, the honour rolls of our major clubs date back well into the last century, so we evidently haven’t always been in the doldrums. It is a pity that nowadays we seem to have an expectation of mediocrity.

There are a few issues that stop Trinity’s clubs from hitting the big time. One is that any university looking to do well in sports probably wouldn’t choose to be founded in 1592, in an area that would become decidedly less of a green-field site over the centuries. As anyone who has used the facilities at UCD, DCU or UL will tell you, modern facilities and good old-fashioned room to run around gives their sportsmen and women a certain edge.

While our shiny new sports centre has all mod cons, it still won’t win any prizes for capacity. The Santry ground is a nightmare to get out to – clubs who train there suffer from severe geography-related attrition, as the journey takes the gloss off their eager new recruits each year. The location wouldn’t be the be-all and end-all, mind you, if the complex itself didn’t verge on the dingy.

It could also be argued that sport is not particularly important to the college as a whole. It is rare

“In sport as in car insurance, it pays to shop around.”

that any college sports fixture attracts much in the way of supporters – cricket matches in front of a crowded Pav notwithstanding. There’s probably nothing much that can be done about this, as it’s symptomatic of a lack of unified college spirit outside of the cliquey allegiance claimed by one’s chosen club or society. Besides, people have lives.
Even so, we could try a bit harder than DUCAC’s latest website update, stating simply: “Ladies Gaelic Football Final”, and a date. No mention of where, what time, or what it was that the ladies had gotten to the final of. Surely the College, or the Student’s Union, could forward e-mails among the student body whenever a big game rolls around. God knows we’d rather read about that than about yet another stress management workshop or gate closing times. Nobody would turn up, granted, but at least they’d have the option.

Maybe our priorities are all wrong – all this academic excellence nonsense is getting in the way of kicking ass. Perhaps, as the major sports become increasingly professionalised, Trinity’s tradition of amateur eminence is no longer sustainable. It is probably no longer possible, with a few overachieving exceptions, for individuals to be superb at, say, particle physics and hurling.

Perhaps, then, if the college authorities are not willing to fund sport here in a big way, so that we can be major players, we would be better off dropping the existing grants, scholarships, DUCACs and the like, and embracing the amateur, underdog side of ourselves. Just play for fun, as nature intended, and as so many of the minority sports in our ranks are played. Sure, we’d do a lot worse in all those leagues, but better that than trying hard and losing anyway.

Still, there is much to celebrate about Trinity sport. If we are no longer giants, we can at least rouse ourselves to an occasional spot of giant-killing, as when the rugby team defeated UCD in the 2006 colours match. We even had representation at the Olympics last month – postgraduate student Philip Lawton flying the flag for Trinity in the sailing.

And of course, in sport as in car insurance, it pays to shop around. One of the great glories of Trinity is its diversity – as with its hundred plus societies, a startling breadth of sporting interests is catered for. Anyone seeking to take up something a bit different would be well advised to take a look at what’s on offer around Front Square this week – from traditional garrison pursuits like fencing, croquet and rowing to new recreations such as climbing, sub-aqua diving and Ultimate Frisbee. Here, amongst these small bands of enthusiasts, some remnant of the old amateur spirit still prevails.