Ulster Bank League profiles: Dublin University face uphill task as Division 1A newcomers

"It was a benchmark in underage rugby, you had to play well in the U20 interpros to play for Ireland. All its doing now is helping the pro game instead of the U20 game."

Dublin University, or Trinity, aren’t in a favourable position, having been staggered with injuries of five players, all recovering from shoulder surgeries.

The newcomers of Division 1A are faced with an uphill task ahead of their Ulster Bank League season.

Head coach Tony Smeeth, best known for being the US Eagles attack coach, has always maintained his affiliations with the international set-up stateside and even managed to recruit US Eagles winger Tim Maupin into the Trinity ranks in 2014.

Maupin was a proven try scorer but now returns America while Angus Lloyd (Ulster) and Max McFarland (Edinburgh) have both signed professional contracts while Conor Kearns and Brian Du Toit go from team mates to rivals, having moved to Oxford and Cambridge respectively.

Skipper Brian Slater is one of the five shoulder surgeries which means Jack Bourke will deputise as captain. Germany 7s player Sebastian Fromm’s elusive running will also be sorely missed by the Dublin University outfit.

Despite this, there a bright prospects aplenty in the Trinity side. Liam Cronin moves from Garryowen and is the sole member of the squad with first division experience. Pierce Dargan returns from Americaafter a stint in the American PRO league while Ross Todd also comes down from Malone as a powerful openside flanker.

As Smeeth admits, Dublin University are notoriously slow starters. The team have endured winless Septembers for the last three seasons but have gone on to win all their games after that.

A luckless start to their top flight endeavours but no need to hit the panic button just yet. After all, there is still some serious pedigree to call on both in the playing and coaching ranks as they kick-off against Terenure tonight.  

Captain: Brian Slater (injured), Jack Bourke

Coaches: Tony Smeeth, Hugh Maguire, John Young.

Last year’s finish: 2nd in Division 1B (Promoted)

Last title: N/A

Betting: 25/1

First four fixtures: Terenure (A) UCD (H) Young Munster (H) Garryowen (A)

Players In: Liam Cronin (Garryowen), Pierce Dargan (Ohio), Ross Todd (Malone)

Players Out: Angus Lloyd (Ulster), Max McFarland (Edinburgh), Tim Maupin (US Eagles), Conor Kearns (Oxford), Brian Du Toit (Cambridge) Mick McCarthy (St.Mary’s) Paddy Lavelle (St. Mary’s).

One to watch out for

“Sebastian Fromm, our winger. If he hadn’t played 7s for Germany , one of the provinces would have given him a contract because he would have been Irish qualified. I have no doubt about that. He‘s one of the best people I have ever coached.” Smeeth gushed. “Hooker Paddy Finlay and Jack McDermott  played for Irish Clubs last year. If I had to pick two it would be Seb and Paddy.”

Hopes and Expectations

“It’s a bit of an unknown. The team that got us promoted about 10 of them are missing. So we’re rebuilding which is never good. We have five players out with shoulder surgeries. Even though, we haven’t had a bad pre-season, we beat Clontarf which was huge for us. It was just a case of we were up for it and they weren’t.  It’s a shame we couldn’t get promoted two years ago with the team we had but it’s exciting don’t get me wrong. Seven of the teams are in Dublin so we’ll have played all those players at U20 level and know them well. We play a certain brand of rugby that a lot of people struggle with so our aim will be to get off to a good start and obviously stay up.

Biggest Obstacle

We have a totally different team. Stepping up a level will be hard; the size, speed and intensity.  If we came up with the team we had last year, I would be confident. I honestly believe we could play anyone. We can’t compare this season though, last year we beat UCD and Lansdowne but we just don’t have the same players this time. It will take a while but we have a strong front five so we should win the ball 

A word on the club scene

 “The U20s interpros: I understand them because Ireland want to go to the U20 World Cup. Now though, it’s like an ‘A’ team. Terenure are missing a 22-year-old prop because he’s subbing for the Leinster U20 game. We don’t have Colm Hogan tonight either because he’s playing. I don’t see how it’s good for Irish rugby. Leinster are putting out Jeremy Loughman and Oisin Heffernan who are overage.  What will happen is Ireland will go to the World Cup and get a few injuries. Where are they going to look for players? The other U20 players will be underdone.” Trinity’s director of rugby said.

“It was a benchmark in underage rugby, you had to play well in the U20 interpros to play for Ireland. All its doing now is helping the pro game instead of the U20 game.

What’s the purpose? It’s getting people ready for the pro game but what about the U20s? I would have thought that the U20s were pretty high on the IRFU’s list. They put a lot of money into it that’s for sure. Those guys are in camp more than the seniors.” Smeeth said, before weighing in on the B & I Cup.

“The academy is giving players some meaningful game time but I don’t understand the rest of it. I thought that was what the B&I Cup was for. I’ve seen some of those games and to be honest a good Lansdowne or Clontarf team would beat those sides comfortably. The English teams want to get into the Premiership for more money, not play in the British and Irish Cup. They’re not going to risk their players so that they can play in the Cup. So teams are playing a Championship’s second team. I can’t see how that’s good [for Irish rugby]. 


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