This Saturday sees the latest installment in one of Irish Rugby’s most distinguished competitions when Queen’s University host Dublin University in Upper Malone (kick-off 1pm) for the Maxol Dudley Cup Challenge.
The Dudley Cup dates all the way back to the early years of the 20th century and the visit of King Edward VII to Ireland.
During the trip, the King expressed his desire to leave a memento of his visit to Cork and instructed the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Dudley, to bequeath ‘a cup for the rugger’ in his honour. Courtesy of Weir & Sons of Dublin, the Dudley Cup was introduced in 1903 as a trophy to be competed for by Irish Universities.
In the 116 years since, the Dudley Cup has been a prized possession for University rugby teams, and last year the challenge format (similar to New Zealand’s Ranfurly Shield) was brought in successfully. UCD were the first winners under the new format, defeating UCC in a fixture that doubled up as an All-Ireland League Division 1A match in Belfield.
UCD were then challenged by Queen’s who, despite operating two divisions below in Division 2A, claimed the Dudley Cup with a thrilling 29-24 victory that ended with Queen’s alumni and Irish Universities Rugby Union President Trevor Ringland presenting the trophy to victorious captain David Whitten.
That triumph was a signature achievement for Queen’s as they celebrate their 150th anniversary and, given the history associated with the Dudley Cup, it is fitting that their first defence is against Dublin University, a rivalry that can be traced all the way back to the 1870s, making it the oldest rivalry in Irish University rugby.
With both sides gearing up for new Energia All-Ireland League campaigns, the intensity of this Dudley Cup encounter is seen as ideal preparation. Dublin University will be keen to build on last season’s progress when they retained the annual Colours title against UCD while reaching the last-four of the league where they lost to eventual winners Cork Constitution.
Dublin University start as favourites tomorrow but Queen’s will be determined to hold onto the prestige of being in possession of this venerable trophy and further honour their anniversary celebrations.
Both teams promote an attractive brand of running rugby in keeping with the best traditions of Irish University rugby and the Dudley Cup, and it is also an opportunity for players to stake an early claim for selection on the Ireland Students squad to take on their Scottish counterparts in February 2020. All the ingredients needed for what should be a cracking contest.