After a year in which events conspired to result in DCU Rugby only playing three games from October to May, coach Phil de Barra is confident that this year will run a lot more smoothly and result in more success for DCU.
The DCU first team suffered a disappointing loss to Waterford IT in their quarter-final match last year putting an end to a season that can only be described as frustrating for all involved.
After being awarded a walkover in their first match the team was left twiddling their thumbs for a number of weeks before they could finally get the season underway.
This year has seen a slight change to the structure of the season in the hope that events can run more smoothly. The change is something that de Barra was very welcoming of.
“The structure is a bit better this year with both our firsts and seconds playing on the same day against the same team. So we’d be looking to get through both of our groups and into the knockout stages with both teams.
“In fairness to CUSAI who’ve organised it this year, they’ve got the dates a little bit better and putting the ‘A’ team into one league and the ‘B’ team into another league means you go to the one college with the same bus makes it far, far easier. It’s a much better layout this year and hopefully we can gather a bit of momentum compared to last year which was very stop-start.”
Last year was de Barra’s first in charge of DCU, something he admits took a bit of getting used to, but he feels a lot more settled in now.
“To be honest I feel a lot more comfortable now. There was a lot of getting to understand how things happen last year and how things are done. Just getting in and meeting the students, finding my office and finding St Clare’s took a bit of getting used to all right.”
The chaotic, or perhaps not very chaotic, nature of last season certainly didn’t help the former IT Tallaght man.
“It was a tough year. The way the fixtures fall, they’re organised in between AIL fixtures. But then the way the weather turned on us and with teams not turning up it was a very, very stop-start season.”
When asked whether he’d put the lack of games down to poor tournament organisation or just bad luck, de Barra said that both contributed.
“It’s a difficult tournament to organise because it has to fall between senior rugby matches. Also there are other factors such as us not going back until a little bit later than most colleges. We’ve already had to re-schedule a fixture in January. I suppose I’d put it down to a bit of both [bad luck and poor tournament organisation]. The bad weather really didn’t help last year either.”
With just two weeks to go before the first freshers’ match of the season, followed by the ‘B’ team taking on Barnhall on 23rd October, de Barra is hopeful that the team can get more early-season matches under their belt before the harsh winter weather begins to kick in.
“We’re straight into it in two weeks’ time, the freshers’ have a game and the girls have a tournament as well. So, fingers crossed that the weather will hold out until December so that we’ll have a good portion of our matches played.”
In total there will be seven students on rugby scholarships this year. Four of them – Tony Ryan, Aklhaque Khan, Scott Flanagan and Andrew Keating – were all involved with the team last year while three new students will also avail of the scholarships. The new students include Gerard Young, an out-half which de Barra says the team were sorely missing last year.
The club has also awarded scholarships to two female rugby players – Niamh Griffin and Aine Lucey – something that was not done last year.
DCU can sometimes seem to be at a disadvantage compared to other colleges such as Athlone IT, which recruit a lot more heavily through the scholarship scheme. However, de Barra, a recipient himself of scholarships in IT Tallaght and IT Carlow, believes that the Dublin university has enough quality players to compete with the top boys in college rugby.
“There are different structures in the colleges. So with AIT, for example, their scholarships are basically a direct link with Bucaneers Rugby Club, then you have NUIM who are linked with Barnhall. So we are up against it there a little bit but in fairness we are a larger college than those. We have plenty of good players in the university for us to be able to compete with them.”
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