The first thing that strikes you is the cup. Not that the Heineken Cup is especially pretty as cups go, or, even, that cups are especially pretty generally speaking but there it is; the highest honour any European Rugby Club can hope to achieve, sitting behind glass, beside the receptionist’s desk in one of the quieter corners of University College Dubin.
Over near Richview, beside the civil engineers – far away from female admirers – in what was once known as the Phillips building is the new home of Leinster Rugby. “We were over the National Irish Bank in Donnybrook, directly opposite the Bective gate; that’s where the administration side was,” says Leinster Rugby’s chief executive Mick Dawson. “The team was based in Riverview. Now we’re all on site here, all under the one roof.”
Quite a modest roof at that, at least from the outside. Nothing particularly special. There are, nonetheless, a few tell tale signs that something different is going on here. For one, the cars are a step or two above your usual student fare and as you approach the building the beat of music reverberates through the windows. Then of course, there is the inordinate number of broad, muscle bound men making their way about the place, some of whom are rather famous. “There’s the senior squad and the academy so we’re talking sixty professional rugby players. Then there is the coaching staff, the strength and conditioning guys, physios, doctor, bag men and managers; about twenty in all. Then on our side of things there are approximately twenty people so around one hundred all in.”
The building Leinster rugby took over was basically a shell for them to do with what they would. The funding for the move was €2.5 million, with €2.2m of that coming from just one donor. “We could not have afforded the move without that money,” says Dawson. It has given them a purpose built space. “On the non-administrative side of the building is the main gymnasium which has room for ballwork, it’s the main weights room, there’s a running track, you could do line out work and things like that, it’s a huge area. Of course there are changing rooms, there’s a restroom, a kitchen where they can relax and watch TV, a physio room with 4 beds, a wet room for showers and ice baths and a hydrotherapy unit. Above that are the offices of the coaching staff. The agreement we have with U.C.D. is for twenty five years.”
Twenty five years is at least three generations in sport and to college students, it’s a lifetime, so this new UCD Leinster Rugby symbiosis is in its infancy but there are many possibilities as to where it’s headed in the future. “We have two relationships with the college. One is commercial; the renting of this building and pitches. Then the other is a partnership where our athletes can work with sports science and sports medicine and our doctors as well. Then there is the support of the college for any of our players taking courses where they can spread their courses out over time.”
If anything tangible will come from that side of the relationship we will have to see. For now, Leinster Rugby are settling rather nicely in their new home in UCD; one better suited to showing off the silverware.
– Ciarán Carey