COLLEGE PARK – Following last weekend’s victory over Garryowen in College Park, Dublin University Football Club (7th AIL, 30 pts.) will travel to Limerick this Saturday to take on second-placed Young Munster (2nd AIL, 44 pts.).
It’s been over five months since the two sides faced off against each other in the All-Ireland League, the previous meeting ending in Trinity’s favor in a tight 32-27 victory. A last-minute try by centre Michael Courtney secured the early-season victory for Trinity, and hopefully such theatrics won’t be required to secure another big win come Saturday.
Since October, however, a lot has changed for Trinity.
Injuries have taken their toll and have forced several personnel changes, but the players stepping up in the absence of those injured have done an excellent job throughout the season. Unfortunately, starting out-half, Jack McDermott, was forced to leave last weekend’s match with his second shoulder knock of the season. His replacement, James Fennelly, showed great composure controlling the match after McDermott’s injury, skillfully utilizing his boot to pin Garryowen deep in their own half.
“All XV guys need to stand up,” said DUFC head coach Tony Smeeth, “for us to win a game at the best supported club in Ireland, it will be a 20 man job. We need to be firing on all cylinders to get the right result.”
The 19-3 victory over Garryowen not only pushed Trinity up to seventh in the league table with a five point buffer from the relegation zone, it also was excellent preparation for Trinity in the run-up to playing another Limerick team. Garryowen showed that they were ready to utilize their big forwards to wear down the Trinity defense, and Smeeth expects much of the same tactic against Young Munster, albeit with more size and better discipline.
“The games against the Limerick teams are always won up front, they always do the basics so well,” explained Smeeth when asked about the match against Garryowen could help prepare for Young Munster.
The Limerick-based club sit second in the league table for good reason. Their 8-6 record, although not as good as Cork Constitution’s (10-4), just goes to show that they are excellent at taking bonus points from both victories and defeats.
In fact, Young Munster lead the league with 12 bonus points, seven from victories and five from close defeats. Their ability to run the scoreboard coupled with their ability to keep games tight makes them very dangerous, even slightly unpredictable.
The Limerick club do not have very many weaknesses to note. In matches against top-four sides the smartest thing for Trinity to do will be to focus on precisely and accurately running its own game plan rather than exploiting the opposition’s weaknesses.
If the match back in October was an example of a strategy in preparation for Saturday, then Trinity’s up-tempo offense has the ability to wear down Young Munster and once again open up space in the midfield for big forwards like Tom Ryan and Raef Tyrell to run into.
“They have very few weaknesses, they are second in the league for a reason,” said Coach Smeeth. “When we played at tempo we got some good reward last time out. But that is always the case. They can play some good stuff as well, so we need to be well balanced to win this game.”
The trip to Limerick’s Tom Clifford Park is a lengthy journey by AIL 1A standards, however, DUFC has shown an aptitude for away matches this season, winning five away matches from eight played.
“There is a reason their clubs have dominated All Ireland league play since the the league was founded in 1991,” explained Smeeth. “That being said, we have actually played better away from home for some reason this season! We won on our last visit to Limerick when we played Garryowen.”
Tom Clifford Park is usually a very difficult place to play in the AIL, but losses to Garryowen and Terenure and a very slim victory over Saint Mary’s have shown that Young Munster are beatable at home.
Coach Smeeth, however, maintained an air of respect when talking about the challenges of traveling to play against Young Munster.
“Tom Clifford Park is the toughest place to win in the history of the AIL. It is fondly known as the “Killing Fields’ by the locals in Limerick.”
With only one point separating Trinity from Saint Mary’s and UCD in fifth and sixth, respectively, a second consecutive victory this Saturday would greatly aid Trinity’s climb up the table. A victory would put Trinity on 35 points, just over 10 points away from a spot in the league’s top-four. With a few weeks left in the season, every point at this stage matters.
If you can’t get down to Limerick for Saturday’s 2:30 PM kick off at Tom Clifford Park, make sure to stay updated with DUFC’s live updates on Twitter (@DUFCrugby) and our post-match recap on our Facebook page.