Wednesday 18 October 2017

Club Focus: Success by degrees for 'Collidge' graduates

University club has stood test of time and stands today as one of major players in Leinster rugby, writes Brian Lowry

UCD’s victorious U-20 McCorry Cup squad
UCD’s victorious U-20 McCorry Cup squad

Brian Lowry

UCD were affiliated to the Leinster branch back in 1910 on the proposal of Bective and Monkstown and became the youngest of the five Irish University clubs. It didn't take long for success to come and four years later, they won the Junior Cup beating Merrion 24-0 in the final and earning them senior status.

Once rugby activities resumed after World War I, UCD played their first senior fixture in the 1919/'20 season against Trinity College. The club would meet the following year in the Senior Cup final, a game Trinity edged 5-0.

That same season saw Andy Courtney and PJ Stokes become the first UCD players to be capped by Leinster with Courtney going on to receive the honour of being the first UCD player to be capped by Ireland.

The Senior Cup was a source of progression for the club and they finally got their hands on it in 1924, beating Monkstown in the final with the side captained by Alex Spain.

The 1930s was also a successful period with their new grounds at Belfield opening in 1936 before they were crowned All-Ireland champions two years later by winning the Bateman Cup and the Leinster Senior Cup with Tim Boland the captain.

After World War II, UCD continued to make waves. Another Senior Cup arrived in 1948 after they had lost three finals in the previous five years and it was a sweet one as they beat Trinity 4-0 with Gerry O'Reilly leading the team.

The December 13, 1952 is also a big date in their history as it saw the inaugural colours match against Trinity played at Lansdowne Road which UCD won. The Colours match has been a big part of the rugby calendar ever since.

Patch The first Lions to come from the club were Niall Brophy and Bill Mulcahy way back in 1959, while between 1961 and 1978, the club won a Leinster competition in every year except 1972 in what was a real purple patch on the playing front.

The UCD team that contested the Leinster Senior Cup final last season Picture: Sportsfile
The UCD team that contested the Leinster Senior Cup final last season Picture: Sportsfile

In 1962/'63, UCD became the first Leinster club to win the Senior, Metropolitan (J1) and O'Connell (J2) cups in the same season - the year of the treble - while Jimmy Kelly became the first UCD man to captain Ireland. The 1970s saw four successive U-19 McCorry Cups, while 1978 saw another Leinster Senior Cup after the side captained by Dave Ramsey beat Terenure in the final. Ireland's Triple Crown success in 1984/'85 also saw a link to the club with former UCD captain Mick Doyle coaching the side to success.

The All-Ireland League came into being in the 1993/'94 season and UCD were crowned Division Three champions. They were relegated back the following year but there were to be good times ahead.

Five UCD players - Damian Broughall, Neil Coughlan, Shane Moore, Andy O'Brien and Brian O'Driscoll - were part of the Ireland U-19 squad that won the World Cup in 1998, while they were also promoted again from Division Three in the AIL.

The 2000/'01 season saw them make history as they were crowned Division Two champions, thus becoming the first University club to make it into Division One.

They maintained their status in the top division for seven seasons but were relegated in 2008/'09 in heartbreaking circumstances on the final day of the season by a drop goal from 50 yards, which bounced off the crossbar, with virtually the last kick of the game. Further disappointment was to follow by being beaten in three U-20 finals. There was some consolation in winning both the Dudley and Conroy Cups. In addition, UCD's Rob Kearney and Brian O'Driscoll represented the Lions in South Africa. Their Centenary season in 2010/2011 saw them claim the Leinster Senior Cup for the first time since the '70s and they were also promoted to 1B of the AIL.

They currently ply their trade in Division 1A of the AIL and have finished in the top half of the table for four seasons, including a fifth-place finish this season, one spot ahead of old rivals Dublin University (Trinity). The U-20 teams tasted cup glory on the double only last weekend with the McCorry and JP Flanagan Division 3 cups being secured.

Current senior internationals include Josh van der Flier, Luke McGrath, Dan Leavy, James Tracy, Rob Kearney and Garry Ringrose.

The women's arm of the club has also grown over the past few years. They play in Division Three of the Leinster league while also competing in the Intervarsity league and recently beat old rivals Trinity in the Women's Colours match.

The club also makes a big effort to assist its players' academic structures to facilitate their rugby programme. Four years ago, UCD RFC introduced recreational Tag Rugby for students and this has been phenomenally successful. Now almost 500 play every week and are all members of UCD RFC.

For the first time in several years, no UCD RFC player has been selected for the Lions tour to New Zealand. However, 'Collidge' will be represented on the tour by current member and former player Vinny Hammond as part of the Lions' performance analysis team. Vinny is currently the performance analyst with the Ireland senior team.

UCD RFC

Founded: 1910

Grounds: Belfield, Dublin

Division: AIL Division 1A

Club Captain: Jamie Glynn

Club President: Paul Keenan

Next week's club focus is on Seapoint RFC

Irish Independent

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