The Irish Universities Rugby Union (IURU) hosted its second annual Festival of Rugby last Saturday at the Terenure College club and school grounds, in association with the Maxol Group and Quilter Cheviot Investment Management.
Alarm clocks we heard ringing at 6am across Cork, Galway, Limerick and Belfast to ensure the teams made it to Terenure for the early kick-offs on Saturday.
For the first time, all four rugby intervarsity competitions will be played on the one day. With 22 teams and 550 players participating, the IURU Festival of Rugby is the largest third level rugby event in Ireland annually.
First up were the Kay Bowen and Maughan-Scally Cup competitions for the Women’s and junior teams. NUIG had won both cups last year and were hopeful of bring them west again this year.
Both NUIG sides faced Dublin University in their opening encounters but had contrasting fortunes. The girls swept aside the Dublin side 24-0 in a dominant display. This impressive performance was matched by a 12-0 victory that followed against UCC, a repeat of last year’s final.
In the Maughan-Scally Cup (social intervarsity competition), Dublin University edged their way to victory in a tense match and followed the win by beating UCC to top the group. On the other side of the draw, UCD were dominating all before them in both competitions.
The first final of the day saw NUIG, going for three Kay Bowen Cup titles in-a-row, up against an improving UCD. However, after a competitive first half, NUIG’s strength in depth proved to be the difference as Elizabeth McKeever’s girls won out 48-5. Impressively, the NUIG side has only conceded two tries in winning the trophy for the last three years.
This was followed by the Maughan-Scally Cup final which pitted old foes DUFC and UCD against each other. As with many of these match-ups, the game swung from end to end but ultimately a moment of brilliance decided the outcome – UCD club stalwart Geoff Sheehan stunned the crowd into silence as he broke three tackles to set up the decisive try.
This was the UCD junior outfit’s first cup in 11 years and was celebrated accordingly, making up for the heartache of their near misses – none more so than last year’s defeat to NUIG.
The shift to the Conroy Cup and Dudley Cup started after lunch. The Dudley Cup was played as a round robin between Dublin University, Queen’s University and UCC. Tony Smeeth and Hugh Maguire’s DUFC team produced two controlled displays built on their dominant pack to clinch the Dudley Cup for the first time in 21 years. One of the biggest cheers of the evening was heard as Nick McCarthy lifted the cup for the first time since 1994.
In the Conroy Cup Under-20 tournament, Dublin University and UCD were expected to take control of their respective groups and neither side disappointed. DUFC took care of NUIG and UCC on one side of the competition, with UCD doing the same to Maynooth University and DUFC seconds on the other.
All was set for the second showdown between the two Dublin rivals in the last game of the festival. UCD have been beaten finalists against Trinity twice in recent years and were looking to put a marker down against their city centre opponents in the first competition of the season.
With a strong wind behind them, DUFC dominated the first half but it was UCD who scored the first try of the game right on half-time to take a slender lead into the break. In a more even second half, which saw opportunities for both sides, it was Trinity who managed to convert an opportunity and claim the cup for the third successive year. Pressure will be on Keith Murphy to continue this winning start to his Under-20 coaching career after rejoining the club in the summer.
On what was a highly successful day for university rugby, special thanks must be passed to Paul Hennebry and Ian Morgan of Terenure College RFC, the IRFU, the Maxol Group and Quilter Cheviot Investment Management for their support.