UCD RFC will mark the club’s centenary season with a fixture under floodlights against a Combined Universities XV, comprising of players from UCC, Trinity College, Queen’s University and NUIG, this Friday at the Belfield Bowl (kick-off 7pm).
Entry at the gate is €;10 (€;5 fo OAPs) with student card holders being admitted free.
UCD RFC is making a significant effort to attract supporters to Belfield with gates opening at 6pm, refreshments available at outlets in the stadium and a half-time place kicking competition, the Paddy Power Crossbar Challenge, featuring participants drawn from the crowd, with a potential prize of €;25,000.
The Combined Universities squad, which is being coached by Conor Twomey of UCC and Trinity College’s Tony Smeeth, was selected following the recent Dudley Cup competition.
UCD, coached by Bobby Byrne, Gary Coakley and Killian Keane, have had a strong start to their centenary season by winning eight of their first nine matches.
They have reached the final of the Leinster Senior League Cup, have won the Dudley and Conroy Cup titles and are currently in third position in All-Ireland League Division 2.
UCD RFC was affiliated to the Leinster Branch of the IRFU as a junior club on January 10, 1910. The club played its early home matches in Jones’s Road on the site of Croke Park. On April 11, 1914, UCD won the Leinster Junior Cup, making the club eligible for senior status.
After World War I, the club played its first senior match versus Trinity College but ended up on the losing side. Their first victory was recorded in October 1919 against Blackrock College RFC.
UCD’s first representative players were Andy Courtney and Paddy Stokes who were capped for Leinster during the 1919/20 season, with Courtney becoming the first UCD player to be capped for Ireland.
Since then, UCD RFC has been a nursery for other clubs and for the provinces, most notably Leinster. 69 former and current UCD players have been capped for Ireland, eight of whom have captained their country – Eugene Davy, Bill Mulcahy, Jimmy Kelly, Ray McLoughlin, Tom Grace, Shay Deering, Fergus Slattery and Brian O’Driscoll.
Ten former or current players have toured with the British & Irish Lions, while former UCD prop Dave Hewett went on to win 22 caps for New Zealand.
The UCD Academy, which has been in place under the direction of director of rugby John McClean since 1996, has been a significant feeder for Leinster and Ireland since the emergence of professional rugby.
Of the current Irish set-up, Sean O’Brien, Fergus McFadden, Kevin McLaughlin, Rhys Ruddock, Paddy Wallace, Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll all came through the UCD Academy. Scores of Academy members have gained representative honours on Irish and provincial underage teams.
Hugh Brady, President of UCD and of the college’s rugby club in its centenary season, said: “It is particularly appropriate that we are celebrating our centenary with a fixture against the Combined Universities XV.
“There is such a rich history in Universities rugby in Ireland but it is arguably more important today to the future of Irish rugby, given the combined emphasis on developing the potential of talented young players with an active, supportive approach to ensuring they receive a good third level education.
“We see the benefits of this in UCD year after year and importantly, so do the players.”
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