At College Park in the centre of Dublin tomorrow, Dublin University and Barnhall clash in AIB League Division Two.
Dublin University have been around rugby fields for more than 150 years and are, in fact, the oldest continuously playing rugby club in the world. Barnhall, from the Leixlip and Celbridge areas in County Kildare, were founded in 1969 as the Irish Meat Packers and attained senior status 30 years later, so becoming Leinster's most recent senior club still competing in the AIB League.
The Trinity membership is drawn from graduates of the establishment and includes university dons and alumni, medical consultants, judges, solicitors, accountants, captains of industry and leaders in the business and financial world. Match days and social events, mostly golf outings and dinners, provide an opportunity for networking among the professionals.
Barnhall would not have such a high profile support base. Many members are technicians, sales representatives, public service employees, tradesmen in the building industry and small business firm personnel. Their president this season, Liam Coleman, is a retired army officer.
DUFC recruit their playing membership from the top rugby playing schools in the land and indeed, from abroad. When Archbishop John Charles McQuaid removed the ban on Catholics attending Trinity in the early 1970s, the gates were opened for rugby players to arrive in from the schools of Dublin and its surrounding counties. The current club Academy, under the direction of Tony Smeeth, awards bursaries each season to help the young students make ends meet.
Barnhall, on the other hand, look to their successful local underage Youths section for their adult players. Unfortunately, not enough young players, nurtured by the club over the past few decades, have made it through to the senior side. On leaving school, many high calibre young players enter an apprenticeship and find it difficult to be available for training and weekend matches. As a consequence, there are a few 'foreign' accents to be heard in their AIB League squad but these numbers are decreasing by the year.
Trinity is a student club whose haul of Leinster Senior Cups (22) was overtaken by Lansdowne only a few seasons ago. The club today is not the power in the land it used to be but found itself back among the elite when they performed in Division One during the past two seasons.
...Trinity coach Tony Smeeth...
The present strength of the 'Trin' lies in the Under-20 section where they have captured Leinster and All-Ireland trophies in recent seasons as well as supplying players to Ireland and provincial and Under-21 squads.
Barnhall is a family club solidly based in the community. Underage rugby thrives at the club. The Blue Bulls have been, and are, extremely successful at teenage level - the Under-16s swept all before them in Ireland last season - and six players represented the club at Leinster U-18 Youths level a few weeks ago. Grannies, adolescents and tiny tots all turn up on match day and the place is jammed with buggies and carry cots. The club does a rare trade in crisps, burgers, chips and minerals on such occasions.
Barnhall have no feeder schools although Confey College in Leixlip has recently appeared in the Leinster Schools Junior competitions. Confey is the alma mater of Trevor Brennan, Barnhall's only Irish international player to date (DUFC can lay claim to 127 Irish internationals in their card). Brennan is a living legend out Parsonstown way and groups from Kildare frequently visit his hostelry in Toulouse on weekend getaways.
Ian 'Moggie' Morgan supplies the major connection between the two clubs on the pitch tomorrow. A Leinster Schools Senior Cup medal winner with Terenure College in 1984, Morgan won his first of four rugby Colours at Dublin University in 1987. He captained the student club from the full-back position in 1990/91.
While at Trinity, he and his two brothers, Ken and Colm, made nine Colours appearances between them, a record at the club. After short stints with Terenure College and Old Belvedere, Moggie arrived at Barnhall as player-coach in the early 1990s. Almost immediately Colm joined him and scored 265 points for the first XV.
Moggie is presently in his eleventh season as senior coach at Barnhall. Along the road, he has captained and coached the Leinster Junior XV for a few seasons and was later appointed Leinster U-20 coach.
Eddie Fitzgerald is another very prominent member out Barnhall way. He was their first captain back in 1969. Previous to that, he had won a Leinster Schools Junior Cup medal with Belvedere College in 1961. Eddie has been Director of Rugby at the club for over a decade and has used his considerable organisational skills to put the club on a sound financial and administrative footing. He was financial controller of Rye Valley Foods, great supporters of Barnhall RFC, before he and the company linked up with the Kerry Group a few years ago.
- With thanks to Des Daly