The nature of college life is that there will be a constant revolving door of cast and characters that roam the campus and accommodation. College sports are anything but immune to this and probably have more departures and arrivals each year as Knock Airport.
For DCU rugby club, this season sees the departure of coach and former international Bernard Jackman as well as some key players but chairman David Burson is optimistic that the team can make the most of the changes.
“In a college year people will always come and go, but we will always find people to replace them. We are missing a few players but we have more coming back off intra and new people from masters’ programmes.”
“Bernard Jackman had a number of other coaching commitments last year as well as DCU so we’re hoping the coaching will be more hands on this year. Our new coach Phil De Bara’s primary objective will be DCU so we’re hoping he will get to know the players better. Whereas Bernard may have only known the first team squad Phil will hopefully get to know everyone”, said Burson.
An issue the new coach could have with getting to know everyone in the squad is the uncertainty over the availability of the players on scholarships. There are different levels of scholarships, from the elite level that goes to provincial academy players like Tadhg Furlong and Colm O’Shea to the AIL level that goes to club players like Clontarf’s Hugo Nolan.
The elite players are rarely released to play while the club players agree to play a certain amount of matches each season. And while it may seem that a scholarship to a player that can play is more beneficial to the team, the elite players are still a part of DCU rugby.
“From a rugby perspective it would be better if we had more AIL players on scholarships to help out the team but it’s not all about putting players on the field. The college see it as a helping a player develop both educationally and as a professional sportsperson even if he never plays a game for DCU rugby club. It looks good for DCU if a player comes through the college and then ends up playing professionally”, said Burson.
“In the past it was contentious that people were getting scholarships and weren’t playing many games and DCU rugby would probably have been something of an annoyance to them, but at the same time they were being given money so they should have had to give something back. The system now is that the academy players help out with coaching and beginners workshops when they’re not playing”, continued Burson.
Given the immense popularity of both GAA and Athletics in DCU, it stands to reason that recruiting potential players could be hard and with Clubs and Socs week coming up how important is it for the rugby committee to shake some hands and pat some backs?
“We’ve found in the past that the club has quite a low profile so we’ve made an effort to increase our social media presence”, Burson said. “It’s not like a rugby club where players come up through the age ranks so we just need to be clever in how we recruit players and promote the club. We will have a stand at Clubs and Socs week so that will be important in getting some new players. It is up to the committee to make it attractive for people to play for the team.”
It is not just participants that the different sports vie for but also for funding. While the success of the GAA and Athletics programmes give them access to more money, rugby hasn’t been left totally in the dole queue. The Grants office purchased portable floodlights for the team to use and the high performance gym has been made available to some players. But despite these positives there has been a decrease in the funds made available for rugby scholarships over the last few years.
“There’s a perception that the GAA gets everything, but that’s not the case. We’ve never been told no by the grants office and this year the CEO of the gym Ken Robinson has given us some places in the elite gym and we are using them as a reward for our best players. Ideally we would like a lot more money for scholarships to recruit people but the scholarship fund has been cut over the last few years and in some cases the package isn’t worth people committing to DCU.”
Will Slattery is our Deputy Sports Editor