Following a promising start to their campaign, Stephen Devine interviews rugby team captain Andrew Cummiskey about the season ahead
Last year ended disappointingly for the college’s rugby team. A 13th-place finish was well below expectations, but club captain Andrew Cummiskey feels this year will be different.
The ex-Michael’s centre believes it would be a “failure not to finish in the top four”. So with promotion from Division Two being the ultimate goal of the team, a good start to the All-Ireland League was always going to be required. They have done just that starting with wins against both De Le Salle Palmerstown and Queens University. The team are ideally positioned with nine points from two games.
This is the centenary year of the club and to mark it, they undertook a pre-season tour of South Africa. Cummiskey feels that the tour will benefit the squad throughout the season both on and off the field: “It was a great way to galvanise the squad and build team spirit.”
The different style of rugby they faced while on tour will also surely stand to the team in the long run: “Their attacking ability was phenomenal and they punished any loose kicks.” The team did give a good account of themselves though, including a win against False Bay RFC. This intensive pre-season campaign meant the team was ready to hit the ground running this season as they have done.
After reclaiming the Dudley Cup for the third consecutive year already this season, beating Queens in the final, the team will look to advance to their second final of the season this weekend in the Leinster Senior Cup. They face a Blackrock side who play two divisions above them in the AIL. Cummiskey, however, doesn’t seem phased by the challenge: “We proved we can beat teams two divisions ahead of us by beating Belvedere, so prospects are high.”
UCD has a long tradition of producing both Leinster representatives and Irish internationals such as Fergus McFadden and Kevin McLaughlin. From the current crop, the captain pointed out second row Mark Flanagan as one to watch.
Unfortunately for the team, they lost a number of high profile players over the summer. Most notably, the Ruddock brothers and John Cooney are no longer on the squad. However, with this type of talent coming through, the team shouldn’t be affected too much.
The challenge which UCD face on a yearly basis is just how young a squad they have, with captain Cummiskey only twenty two years of age, and the vast majority of the squad being aged between 19 and 21. This gives UCD an edge in terms of youthful exuberance against most teams, but perhaps they lack the experiences of some of the seasoned AIL players who they face.
A large contingent of the squad would be products of the schools rugby system, which comes under criticism on a yearly basis. However Cummiskey, a product of the schools game himself, believes that “schools rugby is brilliant” and that “it’s not broken at all so there is no need to try and fix it”.
Another difference between UCD and the majority of the clubs they face is the level of support they receive. Like their soccer counterparts, the rugby team finds it hard to get support from the general student population of UCD. The captain believes there is a distinct lack of student support and feels there is a need to “create more awareness about the team”.
With this in mind, the club has organised a one-off fixture against a combined university selection from the likes of Trinity and Queens on November 5 in the Belfield Bowl. With complimentary entrance for students and bar facilities at the game, they will hope they can attract some new supporters and that they will return on a recurring basis.
So after such a successful start to the season and being the club’s centenary year, UCD and captain Cummiskey will hope they keep the level of performance up all season. In his own words a perfect season would consist of a “top four finish, a good performance in every game and also a good social side to the club”. With the quality of squad they possess, there is no reason they can’t achieve these goals, and if they were to pick up a few extra supporters along the way, it would be a bonus.
UCD 1st XV are taking on a Combined Universities XV as part of UCD Rugby Club centenary celebrations in the UCD Bowl on Friday 5th November – kick off 7pm. At half-time, six lucky spectators will be chosen to take part in the Paddy Power Crossbar Challenge and be in with a chance to win €25,000.