DCU rugby going for double All-Ireland success

Conor Breslin

Jane Waters clears the ball out of the ruck, as she looks to make use of the width against University College Dublin. Photo: Stephen Kisbey-Green

With already winning the Sigerson Cup in GAA and the Collingwood Cup in soccer it’s fair to say it has been a highly successful year of sport in DCU.

With that, the light now turns to the women and men’s rugby teams who will aim to cap off a great year when they travel to Limerick to play in their All-Ireland finals.

Due to the closure of third level institutions, Student Sport Ireland postponed the Rugby Cup Finals, set to take place on March 18th. They will make a decision on the rescheduling of the matches at a later date.

For the ladies’ team, entering the final is at this stage a usual occurrence as this will be their third final in the last three years, winning the competition last season with a 27-22 win over University Limerick.

For the men however this occasion does not come around too often with DCU rugby hoping to overcome last year’s champions Carlow IT to claim their first ever Brendan Johnston Cup after defeating Queens University and the Garda College in the quarter and semi-final.

Speaking to team coach Brian Fitzpatrick, the former London Irish trainer spoke of his team’s preparation coming into this competition and how getting an early lead in the match is key, something they didn’t do in their last two matches.

“We didn’t start as well as we liked in the quarter and the semi-final, so we know if we want to get a result against Carlow IT, we have to play to a high level for a full 80 minutes in the final.”

“I feel we learned so much as a group and have come a long way since I took over the team in 2018. The biggest positive for me was how we dealt with the pressure in our two matches and never giving up when we were losing. In the semi-final when we needed a score in the dying minutes, our scrum gave everything they had to turn over the ball and lead us to getting a penalty,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick also commented on looking to the other sports teams in DCU as inspirations to look up to and replicate in their own team. He also stated that winning last year’s All-Ireland sevens was a huge building block to this season.

“You would look at other teams in DCU and almost be jealous in the trophies they were winning, even the ladies’ team in our own sport. All you need is one small bit of glory and it can drive you on to more success, so I think winning the sevens tournament last season was a big factor.”

Oisín McCormick from Drogheda could become the first DCU captain to lift the Brendan Johnston cup. He puts DCU’s winning ways down to team bonding and learning from past mistakes.

“I feel the whole atmosphere around the team is absolutely fantastic and much stronger when compared to other years. Everyone on the panel are friends and have an extremely close bond, not that we didn’t in the past, but I feel there is some spirit and belief in this team that can drive us to win this championship.”

“The fact we underperformed in the league has been a massive driving factor for us. There were games that we lost that we should’ve come out with the win. Since then I believe we have built up a winning mentality and learned from our mistakes,” McCormick said.

In terms of the opposition McCormick said he is not too familiar with Carlow IT other than that they played them in their very first league game back in October. Carlow won that match, but McCormick admitted that DCU have only improved since then.

“Nobody was giving us a chance coming into this tournament, so I feel we have proven a few doubters wrong. We have beaten some great teams, but we still have the final to win,” said McCormick.

For the DCU ladies, who are well rehearsed on playing in finals in Springtime, this will be a repeat of the 2018 and 2019 finals as DCU will be hoping to make it two in a row when they come up against UL.

After thrashing UL already in the group stages on a score line of 29-5, DCU will enter this final as hot favourites but team captain Sophie Kilburn hopes her team won’t take the Munster college for granted.

“There can be that fear of entering a final too relaxed. We’ve been here before so we know what it takes to win and especially the fact that the game is played in UL will add to the opposition’s psychology of not wanting to lose at home,” said Kilburn.

After losing out on silverware in the league, the ladies’ team will be hoping to rectify themselves and return the SSI All-Ireland cup to North Dublin while the men’s team are hoping to clinch their first All-Ireland.

 

Conor Breslin

Image credit Stephen Kisbey-Green @stephankg_photography