The DCU ladies college rugby team were due to play the Student Sports All Ireland Division One Cup final against The University of Limerick (UL) for the third year in a row, but due to the pandemic of COVID-19, it was cancelled.
The final was set to take place on the 18th of March on the home grounds of UL. DCU ladies college team have reached an All-Ireland final for three consecutive years, each time competing against UL.
Eimear Corri, who plays second centre for the team, said that playing on different grounds has a big effect on the game.
“Playing against UL on their grounds is quite difficult because they have great support, they have the added advantage of getting to train on the grounds and being on the pitch for the weeks leading up to the match, all of which influence the match,” Corri said.
Corri recalled DCU’s last final against UL, that came down to a penalty try in the last few seconds of the game.
“That game was a very exciting win, so everyone was so hyped up for this upcoming game. It’s disappointing for it to be cancelled now,” she said.
Sophie Kilburn, captain of the team who plays flanker, said the team had been preparing since January for this All-Ireland final.
“Our focus was on the All-Ireland since Monday, 27th January, when we had a senior player meeting and identified a six week plan in the lead up to the All-Ireland final. We began prepping at training that evening and knew if we worked hard for just six weeks, we would be in another final,” Kilburn said.
In order to be in the running for a place in the final, teams must place well in the league matches, which take place before Christmas. Corri said that throughout these games, the All-Ireland final was always “in the back of their minds.”
“After Christmas you can’t lose a match, so we had to win every game during those weeks. We only had one training session on Mondays and matches on Wednesdays.
“Those weeks were quite intense because there was no real talk about the match that was just played; your focus was immediately shifted onto the upcoming game the following Wednesday because we had to win,” Corri added.
Both players expressed their disappointment in the game being cancelled, due to the preparation and effort put in by the team throughout the year.
“It’s a mix of emotions not getting to play. It’s very sad for the final year girls, myself included. You live for these moments and this was going to be our last match for this team.
“I’ve been through a lot with them; we’ve been through the lows of losing All-Ireland finals, we’ve been through the gym sessions at 7am, through 3 hour drives to Galway- we’re a very close knit team so it’s quite sad. I feel like I’ve unfinished business and it’s sad that it’s just halted and come to an end like that,” Corri said.
Kilburn also felt disappointed that the game was cancelled.
“This year had been tough for us trying to find the balance between playing both Club and College and we felt we finally got the balance right in our Cup Campaign that we could prove ourselves capable in another All-Ireland Final. Sadly, that didn’t get to play out so it’s quite unfortunate for us, but there’ll be other years and news girls and new memories made in the DCU Blue,” she said.
Kilburn said playing the game at later date would bring uncertainties, due to players in final year who may have graduated.
“To play it at a later date brings a lot of uncertainty as we don’t know when this will all be over. I would hate not to see it played out, but I think we also have to be realistic. An option might be to award the title to whoever has ended up with the most points, but I think a lot of girls would still like to have a game. It will be interesting to see what is done about it,” Kilburn said.
Corri agreed that the team would like to play the game if it was possible.
“I don’t for a second think that Student Sport Ireland should have done anything differently. None of us could anticipate the extent to which covid 19 measures were going to come in place.
“I think a date in the future should be agreed upon for a match like this to take place. I know it would mean the world to me and to other girls who put hours upon hours into this sport over the past four years. To even just get those final 80 minutes would make memories and give us something to look back on for the rest of our lives,” Corri said.
Image Credit: Isabella Finn