David Fanagan gives a preview of DUFC’s prospects for the upcoming season.
Many people, both inside and outside the Irish rugby community, are unaware of the level of history in which Dublin University Football Club is steeped. Established in 1854, DUFC is in fact the oldest ongoing rugby club in the world. Significantly, in more recent times, Trinity are continuing to make waves in Irish rugby as a University side.
In the past two years Trinity have had two very successful AIL campaigns; firstly being promoted from Division 2A to 1B in the All-Ireland League in the 2011/12 season and last year falling just shy of promotion to the highest division (1A) with a third place league finish behind UCD and Ballynahinch who were subsequently promoted. On top of this, DUFC have won back to back All-Ireland Rugby Sevens Cup Competitions in those two seasons, and the plate competition in the August tournament just gone.
This season will prove to be a formidable challenge for newly-appointed captain Jack Kelly and DUFC’s distinctively young Senior Squad, but it is a challenge that is being relished nonetheless. The notable loss of senior players from the club includes Mick McLoughlin and Ciaran Wade (to Wanderers), David Joyce and Ian Hirst (to Clontarf), Warren Larkin (to Landsdowne), James O’Donoghue (to Terenure), Cathal Marsh (to St. Marys) and Neil Hanratty (to the gym). Although this may seem like a significant number, it is nothing out of the ordinary for a University side, the basis for which is characterized by continually rotating squads every year, with the chance for new and younger players to break into the senior team. This year will be no different.
The squad sees the return of several senior players from last season in the form of Jack Kelly, and alongside him the returning forwards Will Scott, Jack Dilger, Brian du Toit and Pierce Dargan, providing a strong backbone for this season’s forward pack.
“In the past two years Trinity have had two very successful AIL campaigns; firstly being promoted from Division 2A to 1B in the All-Ireland League in the 2011/12 season and last year falling just shy of promotion to the highest division (1A).”
The back-line similarly has held onto some of its key players in the form of last years player of the season, the bruising centre Paddy Lavelle, flyers Niyi Adeolokun and Ariel Robles and the utility back in David Fanagan. Significantly, with the departure of the old players comes the eagerly anticipated arrival of the new young guns. With the likes of backs Jack Fitzpatrick, Conor Kearns, Caleb Morrison and Jack Costigan, and forwards Adam Brady, Conor O’Riordan and Andy Keating entering the senior setup, off the back of a very successful Under 21’s campaign last year (in which they narrowly lost the All-Ireland final to Landsdowne,) there will be no shortage of talent in this squad.
The season at a glance sees DUFC play 9 other teams in home and away fixtures in the next 8 months, with the top two at the end of the year gaining that illustrious promotion to Division 1A. However, looking at the standard of the opposition with teams such as Buccaneers, Belfast Harlequins and Terenure, it is painstakingly clear that there will be no easy fixtures for this young Trinity side. Although the task ahead may seem tough, any pundit should write off DUFC at their own peril. What the side lacks in experience, they will more than compensate for with skill, speed and good pattern play. Additionally, the vast experience of the coaching setup in DUFC with Tony Smeeth and Hugh McGuire at the helm will mean that this squad will be set in the right direction from the off. An exciting year of rugby in Trinity College awaits its loyal supporters and this young squad could well surprise the nay-sayers.