A pre-AIL friendly with Oxford University and an international between Ireland and France Universities at the Mardyke are just two of the stand-out items in UCC RFC’s 150th-anniversary celebrations next season.
The club are pulling out all the stops to make the 2022-23 season memorable and mark a significant milestone in the long and illustrious history of the University’s first sport when it was known as Queens College.
UCC may have slipped out of energia All-Ireland League Division 1A at the end of the campaign just completed, but they are leaving little to chance in their attempts to bounce back immediately from a very competitive Division 1B, which includes a couple of local derbies with Highfield, the only two Munster clubs in a section packed with Leinster and Ulster opponents.
The club are advertising for a Director of Rugby with an appointment expected next month in time to plan for the new season, which has an exciting start with a week-long trip to Portugal in September.
College fielded a generally young and inexperienced team in the top-flight last term, but the bulk of the squad remains with only a handful of players leaving.
The fresh-faced complexion of the team was reflected in the half-back partnership of Andrew O’Mahony and Billy Kiernan and flanker Sam O’Sullivan, younger brother of Munster’s Tadhg, and they are indicative of the squad’s youthful look.
On their return from the sunshine of Portugal, College will be straight into action in the attractive friendly against Oxford University at the ’Dyke on Friday, September 23.
Former Munster full-back, Charlie Haly, chairs the rugby club committee and studied in Oxford in 1990, providing the link between the two schools of learning.
That should set-up the Students ideally for the start of the gruelling 18-match AIL shortly after with College expecting to bolster their squad.
The game with Oxford will also reveal the new-look commemorative jersey for the first time and it’s quite a distinguished geansai with the number 150 emblazoned across the front with the famous skull and crossbones positioned in the 0.
Apart from attempting to steer College on a promotion path, players will also be trying to make their case for inclusion in the Irish Universities side to play their French counterparts on February 23 next year.
And it promises to be quite a competitive battle for places in the squad with Trinity College, who were just pipped for a place in the 1A semi-finals, UCD, who are expecting to mount a serious challenge next season, and Queens Belfast, who just missed out on promotion from 2A, figuring strongly, as well.
Finbarr Dennehy takes over from Vivian Nathan as President and the former prop forward is steeped in UCC history, having captained the last Munster Senior and Junior Cup-winning teams back in the day.
College marked his passing during the year by resting the famous number 15 jersey and replaced it with the number 54, signalling the number of times Kiernan was capped by Ireland at full-back.
The 150th anniversary isn’t just the sole preserve of the first team, though, despite its obvious importance in the overall scheme of things, because the club’s other teams aren’t being forgotten either.
The women’s team are heading to play Oxford University as part of the celebrations while the J2 Bulldogs visit London Irish, where former UCC out-half Declan Kidney is head of affairs.
And with an eye to the future, College are organising an interesting Schools Barbarians game between South and North Munster after the traditional senior cup final around St Patrick’s Day.
CBC, PBC and the emerging Bandon Grammar School will provide the bulk of the players for the South with Rockwell College, presumably, slotting in with the Limerick contingent of holders Crescent College Comprehensive, St Munchin’s, Ardscoil Rís and Castletroy College.
UCC will also mark the birthday with a gala dinner next April and there will also be a women’s alumni dinner, too, another first.