UCC’s Mardyke ground was the venue for this year’s Colleges finals and it was IT Carlow that completed a remarkable hat-trick of title wins by lifting the IRFU/CUSAI Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 Colleges Rugby cups.
It is the second year in-a-row that IT Carlow qualified for all three Colleges finals and completed the first ever clean sweep at this level.
The IT Carlow first team beat a strong Athlone IT side 23-20 in the Division 1 decider, in what was a great advert for the Colleges game in Ireland.
IT Carlow got off to the ideal start with a well-taken try from former Ireland Schools winger Jurgen Quinlan in the game’s opening attack.
Athlone IT struggled with pace that IT Carlow were playing at and ten minutes later, Karl Miller added to the score after some great continuity work from Martin O’Neill. Bryan Croke added the extras to put IT Carlow 12-0 up.
Athlone IT came storming back into the game with Buccaneers duo Adam Kennedy and John O’Brien pulling the strings.
Kennedy’s distribution was outstanding and O’Brien made some telling breaks with the IT Carlow defence stretched at times.
Kennedy added a penalty to make it 12-3. IT Carlow were reduced to 14 men but went on the attack and a couple of penalties apiece from Croke and Kennedy left the scoreline at 15-6 at half-time.
IT Carlow started strongly in the second half but the turning point in the match came ten minutes into the half when another O’Brien break resulted in what liked like a try. However, he was adjudged to have been held up.
O’Brien was injured in the incident and unfortunately Athlone lost their main strike threat for the remainder of the match.
IT Carlow went on the attack again and Alan Kenny scored an amazing try from a quickly-taken lineout, with some excellent skills from the IT Carlow backs.
Athlone IT were not to be out done and stormed back with two converted tries of their own, to make it 23-20, and the sin-binning of Croke in the final ten minutes made for a nervous ending for IT Carlow.
They managed to hold on in the end to record a fine win and made it a two in-a-row of IRFU/CUSAI Division 1 titles.
Earlier in the day, the IT Carlow seconds beat a very competitive Tallaght IT team 20-8 in the Division 2 final.
IT Carlow had a red card and were reduced to 14 men after 20 minutes and were made to work hard for their victory.
The game was played at great pace and was end to end with IT Carlow taking their chances with tries from Callum Southgate, Matt Dempsey and Ariel Robles.
Tallaght IT’s try came from Greystones’ Dylan Fossett, who carried well all game and was a handful for the Carlow defence.
In the Division 3 final, National College of Ireland went into an early 7-0 lead with an 80-metre intercept effort from scrum half Evan Lett.
The IT Carlow third team recovered from the shaky start to secure their first title of the day, with two tries from their captain Corey Carty and one from Neil Waters setting up a 21-10 success.
It has been a great achievement for the players and their coach Brett Igoe, the former Leinster/Scotland performance analyst, to make IT Carlow into such a force at Colleges rugby.
Success has not just been limited to the men’s teams as the IT Carlow women competed in the Leinster League Division 4 and won it in their first season, coached by first team player Joe Bulmer.
The season has not stopped yet with the IT Carlow Under-21s in the semi-final of the Purcell Cup against Naas, and the IT Carlow freshers have to play the IRFU/CUSAI O’Boyle Cup final against NUI Maynooth, on April 4.
In addition the IT Carlow Sevens team will be looking to retain their Colleges title from last year.
Rugby in IT Carlow has seen a turnaround in the last four years, since the introduction of their BA Sport & Exercise Rugby course.
The course, in association with Leinster Rugby/IRFU, offers students a chance to train full-time incorporating a degree in Business/Communications. Applications for any of the sports programmes in IT Carlow can be made through the CAO. Or www.itcarlow.ie.
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