DUFC gallant against Clontarf, but struggle against UCD

Trinity suffer a heavy loss in the AIL after a spirited display against Clontarf

Saturday, 7th of October, College Park

DUFC 24-32 Clontarf FC

Friday, 13th, Belfield Bowl


The All Ireland League (AIL) kicked-off last Saturday the 7th, with a blockbuster clash for supporters of Dublin University, welcoming Clontarf FC to College Park for a 2.30 pm kick off. Clontarf entered this season’s opener after their 50-24 defeat to Terenure in the AIL final last May. The game’s first touch was for Colbert with the kick-off, lifting the ball high and left towards the Business Building. The opening minutes were tight, with huge collisions coming in from both sides in what looked to be the beginning of a very tight game. 

Clontarf were let into the game with a midfield scrum following an attacking kick from Trinity fullback Davy Colbert unfortunately ran dead. Clontarf and Leinster number 9 Ben Murphy was the beneficiary of a hugely dominant Clontarf scrum, stealing 30 metres on a quick break down the blind side. Making up for his earlier error, Colbert rattled Murphy in the tackle, dislodging the ball in the process. Trinity regathered and Harry Colbert, the fullback’s older brother, put in an astute 50-22 kick to put the students back on the front foot inside Clontarf territory. 

The set piece has historically been a point of pride in the Clontarf DNA, and this season it’s no different. They defended the Trinity lineout by marking the space at 2 and 4, with Connacht second row Josh Murphy and Fionn Gilbert dominating the air in those spaces. Trinity’s Zach Baird was forced to try to throw over the 6 ‘5 and 6’ 6 men, missing his man at the tail by a matter of inches. Clontarf captain Dylan Donnellan gathered up the overthrow well and ate up the metres ahead of him. Clontarf subsequently went on to open up the scoring with a rolling maul off of their strong lineout platform. Trinity were caught on the backfoot before Donnellan quickly broke off the back to sneak over the line. Out half Conor Kelly added the extras, making it 0-7. 

However, Trinity did not take this lying down. Off the restart, they won the ball back impressively before turning up the tempo of the game, matching their speed and skill. They forced a penalty in front of the posts, with the speed of their play too fast for Clontarf to roll away quickly enough. Harry Colbert slotted the kick to bring Trinity onto the score board (3-7). 

Clontarf’s pack continued to exert pressure at the set piece, earning consecutive scrum penalties. Trinity’s Tom Connolly was unlucky to be at the end of the yellow card that soon followed the third penalty, but the tighthead knew better than to protest and took his medicine well for the next ten minutes. 

Before the half ended Trinity won a penalty and nudged the ball over the halfway line. Zach Baird hit the tail of the lineout beautifully and scrum half King feeds centre Jules Fenlon who finds a soft shoulder before offloading to captain Diarmiud McCormack who devours the space ahead. College recycled quickly and played leftward, where Harry Colbert floated the ball delicately to winger John Francis Campbell. He darts down the left wing, beating two men before offloading to fullback Davy Colbert to dot down between the posts. 

No doubt Clontarf responded well to the Trinity score, playing some lightning quick ball paired with strong variation through the middle, dragging the students into the centre of the park. McDonagh tried to cover the 15 metre patch of empty space ahead but came up short, with Aitzol King taking a beautifully weighted pass in the corner to score. 

The second half began with an intensity like the first with loosehead Jerry Cahir winning a mighty jackal just outside of the Trinity 10 metre line. The ball was shipped quickly wide through Fenlon to Taylor Gleeson on the right wing. He chipped ahead to beat Clontarf wing Seni Reilly-Ashiru. In beating him, Gleeson earned himself a cynical push in the back from this opposite man, preventing Gleeson from regathering the ball and potentially scoring. Reilly-Ashiru won ten minutes in the bin and Trinity won the penalty. They kicked to the corner and set the maul quickly. It was, cynically, sacked by Clontarf short of the line, forcing Trinity to play through the phases before Zach Baird muscled his way over for the score. 

Trinity continued to punish Clontarf indiscipline in the second half, with Gleeson returning an aimless kick from Clontarf fullback Tadhg Bird. He beat two Clontarf men on his ten metre line before kicking through. Irish U20 star Oscar Cawley nudged it ahead and regathered before putting captain McCormack into the corner for the meat pie. Out half Colbert really had his kicking boots on, slotting the sideline conversion with relative ease. 

Cole Kelly was soon given 10 minutes in the bin for dissent, following a midfield scrum penalty that one would have thought could have gone the way of the students. His disbelief got  the better of him, a moment of madness costing himself dearly. The resultant penalty for Clontarf was put to the corner and was mauled over from 8 metres out. Kelly remembered his last name isn’t Colbert and missed the touchline conversion (24-24). Trinity then conceded another scrum penalty from around 35 metres out for standing up, with Kelly slotting it over to give Clontarf the lead (24-27). Cole Kelly returned immediately after. 

You could not doubt Clontarf that day, however. Like any truly great side they figured out a way to seal the deal and deny Trinity a losing bonus point from the fixture. They fed a line out  on the half way line to the tail and set the maul. It spun left and began to take on some legs, with Ben Murphy rescuing it on the Trinity 22 metre line. Some tight carries were made by the pack and eventually captain Donnellan made his way over the line to seal the deal for Clontarf. Final score at college park 24-34.

Trinity captain D. McCormack leads out his team at College Park, image courtesy of DUFC

A week later, under Friday night lights in the Belfield Bowl, Trinity faced another tough test. DUFC supporters travelled down in good numbers, with a nice crowd turning up to watch the old enemies face off. The pitch was in good condition, considering that there was a League of Ireland soccer match the night before, and the weather was clear, with little to no wind at the ground.

Unfortunately, Friday the 13th wasn’t Trinity’s lucky day as they conceded a try within the first minute. After two phases of play, UCD’s scrum-half Michael Moloney returned a the ball to Trinity with a Garryowen. DUFC’s full-back Taylor Gleeson tried to control it with his foot, but failed to make contact with the ball. UCD’s Ross Deegan was the winner in the following race, as the ball rolled all the way past Trinity’s try-line.

Trinity eventually got their score-board moving in the 8th minute, when Harry Colbert slotted over a penalty in the 22, but it would be Trinity’s last score for another 70 or so minutes. However, UCD settled any sort of dissent Trinity was creating, with two penalties in quick succession slotted over by Michael Moloney making the score 11-3.

UCD went on to dominate this game, with another try for Deegan in the 28th minute, which Moloney converted from the touch line. All in all, UCD’s linespeed was superior to that of Trinity’s throughout the first half, even though at times other referees would have penalised them for being offside, as well as dominating the break down.

After half-time, with Trinity being 18-3 down, the red and black desperately needed a score. DUFC managed to string some attacking phases together, aided by penalties against UCD at the ruck. Trinity opted for the kick to touch and won the succeeding lineout, but their maul fell apart and UCD got a lucky escape.

However, DUFC kept the pressure on, but small mistakes cost them dearly and the much needed try never materialised.

A yellow was flashed for UCD’s De Klerk for a high tackle, but UCD were next to score with another penalty kicked by Moloney, extending the lead to 21-3. UCD substitute Michael Colreavy put the game to bed at the 70th minute, with a converted try.

However, Trinity fullback Gleeson managed to get a consolation try with three minutes to go, after Fenlon’s linebreak off a throw-in brought Trinity up to the 5 metre line. A looping skip-pass from O’ Kennedy then found its way to Gleeson, who ran in a try virtually unopposed.

UCD’s Chris Cosgrave managed to get the bonus point with his try 4 minutes past the 80 minute mark, which was duly converted by Moloney, leaving us with the full time socre of 35-8.

While UCD were dominant throughout the match, there were spirited efforts on show by Trinity, especially after half time. Issues at the set piece and breakdown can always be improved upon, and the hurt from last Friday night will be remembered when UCD come to College Park to play the all important Colours and return fixture after Christmas.

DUFC will welcome Limerick’s Young Munster to College Park on Saturday, with kick off at 2:30.