After a winter break, a walkover and a postponement, the DCU first team finally got to take their second semester bow last Wednesday. NUI Maynooth were the opponents and while DCU were defeated 35-25, there were still plenty of positives to take from the game, not least because of DCU’s long layoff.
The game hung finely in the balance at 25-25 entering the final stages, until a Maynooth penalty and breakaway try sealed the points for the Kildare college. But DCU Rugby Chairman David Burson was still reasonably happy with his side’s effort.
“It was a good physical game and was entertaining for the neutral. There was a lot of good forward play from both sides and we were happy enough with the performance considering the amount of injuries we had coming into the match. We were nowhere near our strongest.”
There were some strong individual performances for DCU that would give the side hope. Cormac O’Leary continued his development at 10, having played the second half there in DCU’s opening group fixture and is improving game by game in the position. Flanker and scholarship player Akhlaque Khan was another who stood out, with his ball carrying making inroads in the Maynooth defence. So there were certainly enough positives on show to think that DCU are improving.
“We made good ground in the pack but we realised the Maynooth backline wasn’t very strong so we should have went wide more than we did. The one time we really attacked them in the wide channels our fullback Colin Doyle burnt the winger for a great finish in the corner,” said Burson.
It hasn’t just been the lack of game time which has hampered DCU. The nature of the academic calendar means when many sides are on the training pitch, many DCU students are burning the midnight oil in preparation for the January exams.
The weather hasn’t been conducive to holding training sessions either. DCU’s two main training facilities, the sports grounds and Clontarf RFC, have been frequently waterlogged over the past few weeks.
“The amount of time each team can spend training varies greatly from college to college. Our freshers had a game with just one day’s training because of the exams. The weather has been pretty biblical lately and that’s meant we haven’t been able to train nearly as much as we would like.
“In DCU, rugby is more of a social outlet than in some of the other colleges. We would have one or two trainings a week, while in colleges like Athlone IT they might have four, including gym sessions,” continued Burson.
Although DCU have lost two group games, they have also gotten four points for a walkover so they are still on course for the knockout stages. The top side from the two groups go into the semi-finals, while the second and third place teams play each other in what amounts to the quarter-finals. As things stand, DCU would travel to IT Cork. Burson is looking forward to the clash but recognises DCU’s chances are partly governed by outside forces.
“I’m sure every college in Ireland has 15 good players, but their availability depends on the week that’s in it. If it’s an AIL weekend you could be short two or three key players who need to rest. As it stands, we’re down to travel to Cork and I’m looking forward to having a last hurrah down there with the team and hopefully we can come away with a good result.”