Photo Courtest of Tommy Dickson/INPHO; Article by Ronan Nelson
COLLEGE PARK — All-Ireland League (AIL) Division 1A rugby returns to College Park this Saturday, April 15th as Trinity Rugby (DUFC) prepares to host Terenure in a pivotal regular-season curtain call.Trinity (9th AIL, 35 pts.) sits level on points with Terenure (7th AIL, 35 pts.) towards the bottom of the All-Ireland League table, Terenure edging ahead in the standings thanks to a smaller point differential.
The match’s gravity is immense for Trinity in their first season in AIL 1A. A victory would secure another season in Ireland’s elite club league while a loss would put Trinity into the relegation playoffs, a two match knockout mini-tournament to determine who will play in Division 1A and who will be dropped to Division 1B next season.
DUFC enters into Saturday’s match off the back of a tough 32-19 loss to rival university club, UCD, in the annual Colours Match. Trinity fought valiantly in defeat at the UCD Bowl but were unable to overcome key injuries against a powerful UCD side.
However, Trinity head coach, Tony Smeeth, insisted during the week that the Colours would be an opportunity to improve before the pivotal regular season finale, explaining that “we need to get quicker ball to challenge well organised defences like UCD and Terenure. We also need to be more accurate.”
“We got ourselves back into [the Colours] at 22-19,” Smeeth said,” but then lost it on our own errors. I felt we beat ourselves rather than UCD beating us.”
DUFC’s high-tempo, high-efficiency offensive style will be an interesting matchup against Terenure’s similar setup. Both backlines will be taking cracks at each other from the kickoff, so the importance rests on Trinity to control the pace and direction of the match from its onset.
DUFC has shown time and time again during the season that they have the ability to create opportunities from any position and situation on the pitch. The athletic ability of Trinity forwards like Raef Tyrell and Tom Ryan has added extra players into the attack and has successfully opened lanes for backs like centres Kyle Dixon and Michael Courtney (#12 and #13, respectively) to navigate.
Outside-half James Fennelly, who was introduced to the first side in February as a replacement for the injured Jack McDermott, has been productive for Trinity’s backs and has added a significant boost to the squad’s tactical kicking ability.
It sounds horribly cliché, but Trinity can tolerate nothing less than a full team effort if they expect a victory out of Saturday’s finale.
On the other side of the ball, Terenure enter into Saturday’s match with a huge surge in confidence after a harrowing victory over league leaders, Lansdowne, at Lakelands. The visitors haven’t lost in AIL play since a St. Patrick’s Day defeat to rival St. Mary’s, and have kicked into high late-season form in an urgent push to avoid relegation.
Led by strong defensive structure and counter-rucking ability, Terenure are a hard team to overcome in many facets. They enjoyed long spells of backline-play against Lansdowne, and they will undoubtedly give Trinity’s talented backline agility and structure a test.
Looking ahead to Saturday, DUFC’s Smeeth elaborated on the position his team is in with a dangerous trip to the relegation playoffs at stake, saying, “Obviously the end result is ‘season defining’ for us. With exams coming up we want to finish the season right now! But as a team we are concentrating on getting our game accurate on attack and defence.
“We have played some great rugby ourselves this season including the UCD game,” he continued. “We will always be positive on the way we try to play.”
Smeeth also offered some final thoughts on how he believes the match will play out, explaining, “I think it will be a cracker of game for the neutral. Watching Terenure against Lansdwone, they really do try to play a high tempo running style backed up with massive physicality at the breakdown, traits we bring to our game at every opportunity. The game as always will be decided on the team who are most accurate in what they do under severe pressure.”
Saturday’s match kicks off in College Park at 2:30 PM. The on-field action will surely make for an amazing match, an absolute must-watch for any rugby enthusiast.
Get to College Park early to secure your place on the sideline (it will be crowded) and make sure to get a match brochure to properly follow along with the action.
Be spontaneous, be loud, wear are your Trinity gear, and cheer Trinity on to another season in Ireland’s top flight!
Trinity Starting XV & Replacements:
15 Colm Hogan, 14 Tim Maupin, 13 Michael Courtney, 12 Kyle Dixon, 11 Brian Mollen, 10 James Fennelly, 9 Rowan Osborne, 1 Eric O’Sullivan, 2 Patrick Finlay, 3 Andy Keating, 4 Jack Burke, 5 Cian O’Dwyer, 6 Raef Tyrell, 7 Ross Todd, 8 Tom Ryan.
16 Jack Boland, 17 Charlie Connolly, 18 Pierce Dargan, 19 Dan Joyce, 20 Evan Dixon.