Rugby and Trinity are synonymous entities. Evidence of the sport being played in College Park dates back to the 1780s, while Dublin University Football Club can trace organised existence back to at least 1854. College has proudly hosted over 150 Irish capped athletes, with 2022/23 Sports Scholars Ryan Baird and Joe McCarthy recently lining out for the World Cup warm-up match against Italy.
DUFC Women’s has been a less consistent presence upon the roll of honour trotted out when discussing the sport and its relationship with Trinity. However, it’s a club firmly on the rise in College, both in terms of its reputation and its on-pitch achievements.
The 2021/22 season saw DUWFC win promotion, for the first time in its history, up to Division 1 of the Leinster League. In conversation with Grace Jackson, Vice Captain 2023/24, last year (the first spent in Division 1), was described as “tough”, but a “massive learning experience for the team.”
“Playing in Division 1 was a huge step up, since obviously there’s that difference in ability and standard of play from Division 2…it was a tough year but it was great to see how all the girls really stepped up to the challenge and made the most of it.”
“It was a baptism of fire for a squad which pulls quite a proportion of its panel from those who pick up the sport for the first time in Trinity”
A tough year it certainly was, with DUWFC having to swallow tough losses to the likes of Blackrock College RFC, Old Belvedere Women’s, and Railway Union RFC. It was a baptism of fire for a squad which pulls quite a proportion of its panel from those who pick up the sport for the first time in Trinity. According to Jackson, however, this blend of athletes new and old to the sport contributes hugely “to the family atmosphere we’re really proud to have in the squad.”
Notwithstanding the aforementioned challenges of the season, the team also enjoyed plenty of highlights along the way. Pointing to examples such as a visit from Oxford University RFC to Ireland, where DUWFC claimed a fantastic victory over the Dark Blues in College Park, and an outstanding win against DCU in biblical conditions, Jackson lauded such games as examples of the squad’s spirit, which will surely be evident again in the 2023/24 season.
Yet nowhere last season was this spirit more evident than in DUWFC’s playoff match against PortDara RFC. A win would have seen Trinity retain their spot in Division 1 for 2023/24, whereas a loss would have seen relegation back to Division 2. Giving a superb performance, DUWFC secured a huge 37-0 victory at unquestionably the most crucial match of their season.
Recognition of DUWFC’s exhibitionary game was made at the annual Trinity College Sports Awards, hosted by Trinity Sport and Dublin University Central Athletic Club (DUCAC). Squad member Ashley Palermo accepted the award for “Performance of the Year” for the playoff match, with tribute paid to DUWFC’s tenacity of spirit when it came to the strength of squad morale required to grind out a victory and solidify their position in Division 1 for another season. At a night committed to celebrating the best of sporting life in College, DUWFC’s triumph was a worthy recipient.
In the regular season, numbers typically permit DUWFC to field only a 1st XV, however in the summers of 2022 and 2023, members of the team have travelled to France to take part in the Paris 7’s tournament. As a fast-paced alternative to traditional 15’s rugby, Trinity claimed a win in the tournament in 2022 and had a “fantastic time” again in 2023.
Other standout season events include the annual Colours clash against traditional rivals University College Dublin in the manner of other historic sports of College. Held at the Belfield Bowl in 2023 with hosting rights to return to Trinity in 2024, last season’s clash didn’t fall in DUWFC’s favour, but saw superb execution with “some of the team’s best rugby of the season” played in challenging conditions on the day.
In terms of the season to come, moods are already high in the encampment. Preseason commenced with vigour some weeks ago, and regular training will be held, generally in College Park, on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the duration of the year. In seasons gone by, DUWFC have enthusiastically welcomed both those with and without rugby experience to the squad, and this year is no different. A culture of “all are welcome” permeates the Club and is a bedrock trait of the reputation which they have garnered for themselves, both around College and on the Leinster rugby circuit.
With the stated aim of improving upon last year’s League position, DUWFC have big goals for the season ahead and will undoubtedly be a mainstay of sporting success in Trinity for years to come.