The UCD GAA under 20 B’s is a team hopeful to take home a piece of silverware at the end of their long second division campaign. We gained special access to the team, their pre-game rituals and sat down with several influential players to answer an important question: Is Fresher Bs, as they call themselves, the graveyard of sport, or is it a hub of undiscovered talent?

UCD under 20s B team (We’re talking about GAA. Gaelic football. Bogball.) is eying up a championship challenge as their season comes to a close. With a lot of quality on the pitch, perhaps the only obstacle between themselves and division 2 glory is their off the field antics. Their post-game ritual (pre-game for some…) of heading to Ryan’s on Camden Street, the alma mater of many UCD Agricultural Science students, tends to over-shadow performances on the pitch. While I, personally,  have never been exposed to Ryan’s in full flow, I have heard many stories about the institution and if the milk chugging competition that took place outside the Ag building a few weeks ago is anything to go by, most of what I’ve heard is true. Disturbingly.

The vast majority of these tales involve the Fresher B team’s vice-captain, Hugh O’Toole known to many as “Hughie”. He is a man who proudly claims to have drunk three pints out of his own wellies. A truly fascinating individual, Hughie is at the heart of the Fresher B’s defence, a backline that has only conceded 40 points this season. Not bad for a man who is on a first-name basis with the bouncer in Ryan’s.

Unfortunately, it is hard to quantify the success of the fresher Bs because most of their games are called “friendlies” where the ref refuses to take count of the score. However, I’m told repeatedly by corner-back Adam Mcnally that “we hammered them. They were sh*t”. When I asked why you would play in, what are effectively non-competitive games, I was served up with the classic throwaway line, “for the love of the game”.

The team are however competing in the Division 2 championship, a competition that has a group stage, followed by two knockout rounds before the final. They had comprehensive victories over Trinity and TUD, yet took the L against DCU, where I’m told that the ref blew the final whistle twenty minutes early, in what can only be described as a humiliating experience for all involved. So much for that impressive defensive record.

Nonetheless, the Fresher Bs are into the Quarter-finals and there is quiet confidence among the group. If they were to reach the semi-final, it would surely be a huge achievement given the fact that it will be played after reading-week, during which time half the team will be on sabbatical in Ryan’s. Ryan’s may not be the only barrier to any potential success though. The team are regulars in the UCD Clubhouse bar and they have also recently discovered the phenomenon of Dicey’s on Harcourt Street. Every Wednesday the team moves in numbers to their new home in the heart of Dublin city, beside the Luas, a train that goes on the road.

So, to answer the question, is this squad of twenty-odd players a hub of undiscovered talent? To be fair, they do have some genuine athletes on the team and they are a competitive outfit. That said, undiscovered talent might be a stretch too far. Still, they are a group of lads who have a passion for the GAA, in all its forms, and they certainly have an innate self-belief of making it all the way to the Div 2 final. That, in itself, is admirable.

And who knows, if they do manage to make the final, I might even actually go to the game. Unlikely though.

Stephen Black – Sports Writer