DUFC: Season in Review

Darragh Higgins takes a look back at DUFC’s season, their first at the top of the league.

Grand Opening of College Park, Trinity College, Dublin 4/10/2014 Credit: ©INPHO/James Crombie

DUFC Season Results (correct as of 12/03/17)

18-25 win v Terenure
13-23 loss v UCD
19-31 win v St. Mary’s
32-27 win v Young Munster
14-27 win v Garryowen
14-25 loss v Lansdowne
7-27 win v Old Belvedere
10-30 loss v Cork Constitution
33-0 loss to tarf
0-29 loss to Clontarf
19-3 loss to Cork Constitution
26-15 win v Old Belvedere
45-3 loss v Lansdowne
19-3 win v Garryowen
12-15 win v Young Munster

“It has been a season of mixed results for one of the newest sides in the league, but they have produced some impressive displays of attacking rugby”

The 2016/17 Ulster Bank League comes to an end next month, and as the business end of the season rolls around, there is still a lot to play for. We take a look at DUFC’s maiden year at the top of the pile, as Division 1A of the AIL remains tightly contested going into the final matches.

Trinity College were favourites for relegation at the beginning of the season. This frosty welcome to the league from the bookmakers was understandable, as there is a sizeable transition between Divisions 1A and 1B. The team managed to gain promotion after a hard-fought win in the play-off match over Ballynahinch last April. A year on from that fateful day, DUFC sit mid-table, in an extremely competitive league with only eight points separating the the bottom six of the ten teams. Veteran heavyweight clubs Lansdowne, Young Munster, Cork Constitution and Clontarf begin to pull away at the top of the table, although not by a huge margin.

A fine start

Trinity’s season kicked off away from home, with an impressive 25-18 victory over established first division contenders Terenure. This proved to any sceptics that Trinity were capable of taking their high-tempo brand of rugby to the top flight and were ready to dominate games with some of the best teams in the country.

A close loss at home to a star-studded UCD side in the second round proved a reality check for the young side, having to contend against a team with twelve contracted Leinster players, including dangerous Leinster finishers Adam Byrne and Barry Daly. They made a strong impression, but eventually lost out 23-13, with the corresponding fixture, doubling up as the highly anticipated annual colours match, taking place on 7th April in Belfield.

Trinity were back on track shortly after, however, managing an extremely convincing away win against a St.Mary’s team that also won promotion last season, and were equipped with four former Trinity Rugby senior players, including previous captains Paddy Lavelle and Nick McCarthy. The students fell behind in the first half, only to score twenty-five points in a sensational second half, coming out 19-31 winners. This win galvanised the students, sending them to two more wins over Young Munster and Garryowen, with another impressive win against Cambridge on a tour to England. The win against Young Munster was particularly notable, with a last minute try from centre Michael Courtney taking the spoils, as Trinity ran out 32-27 winners.

A tough 25-14 loss at home to table-toppers Lansdowne succeeded the win against Garryowen, despite a hard-working effort from the Trinity pack and a sparkling performance from DUFC fullback and Ireland u20 captain Jack Kelly. The College bounced back however, with yet another win over an Old Belvedere side that has struggled for any consistency this year, currently lying bottom of the table on 24 points. It was nonetheless a good win for Trinity as a couple of injuries at outhalf meant that AIL debutant James Fennelly could lead the team to a four try bonus-point win away from home, putting in an excellent individual performance.

The students struggled for momentum thereafter, as four successive losses either side of the Christmas break put a halt to any early thoughts of play-off glory, as well as any delusions as to the physical nature of top flight rugby. Heavy back to back losses home and away to a clinical Clontarf, last year’s champions, served to put a dent in DUFC’s confidence, with the ‘Tarf team naming multiple professional players in their lineup, including Heineken Cup winning hooker Jason Harris-Wright, and Leinster’s Mick McGrath.

Trinity’s Christmas break gave them a chance to play their part in the Leinster Senior Cup, as they struggled past Division 2B side Barnhall before a tough loss in the Semi-Final away to Lansdowne, with a number of key players missing players for that game. The dip in form continued after that cup tie, with that second loss against Clontarf followed by another loss away on a trip down to the formidable Cork Constitution.

Younger underdogs

A tough period of games was put to bed with a convincing win on a clear Friday night back at home in College Park, against Old Belvedere. The students looked like they had found their mojo again, with new life breathed into the team by some excellent performances from younger players, such as try-scorer Billy O’Hora, stepping up to the senior team and helping the side to rediscover their confidence.

DUFC then played Lansdowne away from home again where they took yet another heavy loss against a powerful team, who look likely to take the title this year. But DUFC resisted slipping into another period of bad form as they bounced back with an impressive win at home to Garryowen. Trinity were subject to some awful weather conditions on the night, but put in a gutsy performance to oust the Limerick side in College Park, coming out with a 19-3 win.

12-15 win against Young Munster

Trinity’s latest game, against Young Munster in Limerick, on Saturday 11th March, resulted in a massive win for the students, running out 12-15 winners. In a tense affair, a successful penalty kick from Bryan Mollen with three minutes left on the clock helped the students over the line in the most difficult fixture of the year, after overcoming the notoriously hostile atmosphere of the Limerick club.

It has been a season of mixed results for one of the newest sides in the league, but they have produced some impressive displays of attacking rugby, shown their pedigree and proving that they belong in the top flight, along with fellow newcomers St. Mary’s who sit three points and one place behind Trinity, in seventh position in the table. With a break next weekend, Trinity will hope to complete their season with victories over St. Mary’s and Terenure at home, as well as UCD away. While many punters will be quick to take note of the fact that Trinity are nine points off the bottom of the table, they are in fact within reach of a playoff spot, being only eleven points off Young Munster’s position of fourth place. While it is a reasonably long shot, it has been a mighty effort this season from the college side and it would be a just reward to make the playoffs if they finish the season strongly. Regardless, it has been as good a year as we could have hoped for, and one the squad should look back on with pride.