Looking at their performances last season in the context of a difficult campaign the year before, Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) Women have a lot to be optimistic about.
Having spent the majority of the 2017/18 season struggling to keep their head above water and only narrowly avoiding relegation, last year’s campaign saw the team reach the final of both the Paul Cusack Cup and the Leinster League Division 3. Although DUFC fell at the final hurdle on both occasions – losing out to Port Dara Falcons and MU Barnhall respectively – the team’s striking change of fortune on the pitch will be something they will look to bring forward into the new season.
Reflecting on last year’s results, team captain Genevieve Ruesch notes the significance for the club in reaching the heights of the Division 3 final. Speaking to the The University Times, she says that “we performed really well last year. It was so great to be part of the team, everyone was really working towards being the best. Getting second place in Leinster League was such a huge deal for us … the difference between my first year [at the club] and second year was huge”.
DUFC’s second place finish in Division 3 sees the club move up to the next tier of the Leinster League this season. Although the challenge will undoubtedly be greater, Ruesch says that it cannot be viewed as anything other than an opportunity to grow and improve.
“I think with the promotion”, she says, “it’s definitely going to be hard moving up, but it’s a great challenge. We’re only going to be playing against better teams which is going to make us better regardless”.
“I think we have the potential to meet the challenge … it’s going to be up to the core 20, 30 players, getting as many people as we can on the same page.”
The difference between my first year at the club and second year was huge
With the majority of last year’s panel returning for another year – with the exception of former captain Jane Leahy – DUFC will be hoping to build on the momentum garnered from the previous season’s success, as well as adding a couple of new names to their roster.
Returning players will take part in an intensive preseason camp over freshers’ week, with regular training commencing the following week. DUFC will also play a friendly against the Wanderers at the Aviva Stadium on September 21st, as part of the Ballsbridge club’s 150-year anniversary celebrations.
For Ruesch, these early preparations for the season ahead are essential in setting down a marker for the season, especially with the team set to be facing stronger opposition week in, week out. “The attitude comes from the players”, she says. How the team comes together in those couple of weeks preceding the opening Leinster League fixtures could come to define how the season plays out: “It just depends on how that team mentality gets set up at the beginning.”
Instilling that mentality within the team has never been a problem before. However, this year, Ruesch notes that fostering that sense of a coherent team unit is more crucial than ever. She believes that realising your obligation to your teammates is the greatest motivator of all: “You don’t want to let the person beside you down, because you see how hard they’re working … with the physicality in rugby, there is a possibility of injury, putting your body on the line. To me, when someone beside me is making all these tackles, it seems unfair for me not to.”
With preseason preparation behind them, focus will turn directly to Trinity’s first Leinster League Division 2 fixture, which will see them face Mullingar RFC in Santry on September 29th. As they continue their campaign, DUFC will once again meet old foes Port Dara and MU Barnhall, and will relish the opportunity to seek revenge following bitter defeats to the Kildare clubs last season.
You don’t want to let the person beside you down, because you see how hard they’re working
DUFC will also partake in the Student Sport Ireland Rugby League again this year. While Ruesch admits the competition is not the main focus of the team with the Leinster League looming, matches still offer a chance for players to secure all-important game time, and the prospect of silverware come the end of the season.
Some question marks still remain over the coaching team managing DUFC Women this year. Joe Horan, who last April was recognised as Coach of the Year at the annual Trinity Sports Awards, will no longer be a part of the coaching staff, as he departs DUFC following several years of service. Arthur Greene is returning to coach the side for another season, along with fellow clubmate Aran Egan. The position of forwards coach is yet to be filled.
Given the higher calibre of opposition the team will face this year, it’s crucial that DUFC come out of the blocks fast if they intend to seriously compete in the Leinster League this year. With a strong returning core group of players, it is well within the realms of possibility that DUFC can pick up where they left off last April, and continue to raise the bar for women’s rugby in Trinity.