To say Trinity Women’s Soccer breezed through to the quarter-finals of the Colleges and Universities Football League (CUFL) is an understatement of vast proportions. Some 37 goals scored and a measly 4 conceded, all in the space of just four games, suggests more destructive terminology would be more appropriate. Given this scintillating form, one could forgive coaches Dan Hobbs and Adam Rochford for showing the classic symptoms that success of this scale breeds. No such hubris exists.
Hobbs is a former Trinity student and, away from the dugout, he spends the majority of his time running his software company. He’s clearly proud of the high-calibre that he has shaped alongside Rochford: “I’ve been here six years and this is the best team we’ve had in my time.” His grin that follows betrays the quiet confidence and pride he has in his team.
Not that this is a total anomaly: many of the current squad are veterans of last season’s CUFL campaign, where only defeat to GMIT prevented what would have been a worthy promotion to the Premier Division.
Despite the potential for the sort of debilitating hangover that such a gutting defeat has been known to inflict on teams, this season’s onslaught appears to have dispelled any of these misgivings. Indeed, the fact that the aforementioned CUFL final appearance – not to mention this season’s romp – has coincided entirely with Rochford’s tenure at the club is a correlation that is not lost on the squad. As he jokes himself: “It’s obviously not a coincidence.”
His array of coaching badges – “three shy of Mourinho actually” – and degree in sports science and health certainly hasn’t harmed the team’s performances. What is clear from watching the squad train and talking to the players, however, is that the success of the team cannot be attributed to one source. Be it the jovial yet unyieldingly focused tone set by Hobbs at the helm, or the potency of star forward Aoife Robinson up front, or the team’s impenetrable back four, it’s fair to say there’s no shortage of reasons for such a clinical campaign. As Hobbs says: “There are no weaknesses in this team. When we make a substitution, we know the team will be as strong as the starting 11.”
There are no weaknesses in this team. When we make a substitution, we know the team will be as strong as the starting 11
Having no weaknesses does not prohibit the possession of notable strengths, however. Undoubtedly, one such strength is top goal-scorer Robinson. Having played as a centre-half for the past four years, Robinson this year made the transition. “She’s been amazing”, is Hobbs’s verdict.
Speaking with her, I try to provoke some form of cocky responses, but again I am rebuffed by the same sort of modesty I had encountered with the coaching staff: “Playing with good players makes you play better yourself.” This is all about the team.
Robinson equally values the attitude of the squad: “They’re all taking accountability for each other and themselves, looking out for one another. Everyone wants to do well, they all know what it is they want to achieve and they’re all helping each other achieve it.”
Robinson doesn’t argue with this, but she is willing to go a step further than Dan’s humility permits him to go. “The coaches need to take a huge amount of credit”, she says, reinforcing my first impressions of the duo who seem to be as effective as they are amicable. “Dan’s great, such a nice guy as you can see and he’s a great motivator too, as well as obviously being a great football coach.”
She’s quick to emphasise Rochford’s brilliance too: “He’s been great since he came in. He really knows his stuff.”
“He’s got some really useful technical knowledge and as you can see we’re benefitting hugely from that.”
There is one aspect of her game that Robinson isn’t afraid to boast about, however: “I’m very good at shouting at the rest of the team”, she says with a sideways glance at them as they train beside us.
“I love it, and I’m sure they love it too. They’re just not very good at showing their appreciation”, she chuckles.
The team will certainly need to be at their best for their upcoming fixture against Dublin City University (DCU) in the quarter-final of the CUFL. “They’re probably the toughest opponents out there”, concedes Hobbs.
Nonetheless, optimism prevails: “If we had this team last year we would have won [the competition] … I’m not too worried.”
The lack of injuries in the build up to this game will no doubt fuel Hobbs’s faith in his team further, though he is not without caution. Last year’s loss to GMIT proved the ruthless nature of college football: “It’s all about what happens on the day. Last year [against GMIT] they had three shots; scored three goals. Irrespective of the opposition, or of our own form so far, we’re taking nothing for granted.”
If they win, it’ll be nothing less than they deserve. Even if they lose, however, there is hope for the future, with all but one member of the squad having at least one more shot at glory next year before they graduate. Sadly, that one is Robinson, who is in her fifth and final year. Has she considered the significance of what could be her final game in a Trinity shirt?
“Of course. But all it means is come match day, the rest of the girls and I are going to be leaving nothing out there. That’s for sure.”