2017 is a year that will go down in sporting history for a number of reasons. It is a year that has spelled the end of the careers of legends such as Usain Bolt and Andrea Pirlo, and the beginning of new ones in the form of Kylian Mbappe and Sloane Stephens. A year when the Lions battled hard in New Zealand, McIlroy faltered, and Conor McGregor’s bank balance continued to grow. But closer to home, 2017 has been a year of overwhelming success for UCD Sports Teams, and none less so than the Fencing Club, who have enjoyed a year which has been steeped in silverware across several different competitions

The yardstick for this academic year was already set in motion last summer, in Vilnius of all places, as UCD alumni flew the flag for Ireland in the World Cup Modern Pentathlon event. Among these, current club member Sive Brassil featured, finishing a very impressive 19th place having secured her qualification place for the competition at the last minute. Sive was not the only competitor in the women’s competition with ties to UCD, as recent graduates Kate Coleman and Olympian Natalya Coyle finished 27th and 34th respectively. The following day saw the mixed relay event, with another UCD student, Arthur Lanigan O’Keefe partnering Coyle to victory in the competition as they rose to first place following, you guessed it, the fence. A testament to the hard work done in training for the event behind the scenes.

As summer ended and attention moved back to Belfield, the team barely had time to come up for air before being faced with the National Championships on September 9th. Throughout last year, UCD Fencing Club established themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the women’s epee circuit; Ad Astra scholar Alisha Mullen represented Ireland internationally while first-year Sorcha Mellon-Whelan secured the title of Student Individual Champion 2017. Mullen and Mellon-Whelan triumphed over Trinity at the Inter-varsities to become Student Team Champions alongside their team-mates, Laura Donaghy and Sive Brassil. On the back of this success, the National Championships represented a chance to amass even more silverware, and UCD Fencing Club was well-represented as always. The men’s epee team of Sean Ryan, Colm Casserly and Shane Whelan finished a respectable fourth place after coming unstuck against DUFC in the semi-final, while the women’s epee team, featuring Mellon-Whelan, Jess Stallard, Kristy Rozenberga and Phoebe Ireland finished with bronze. A strong start to the academic year, but the best was yet to come.

The Intermediate Championships, which were hosted in Belfield in October, saw UCDFC dominate a competition which attracted 200 competitors from across the country. Overall, nine fencers medalled across the six disciplines, with UCD’s medal haul three times that of the next closest competitor. The highlight of the event was undoubtedly the Women’s Sabre event, which culminated in a hotly contested final between UCD club-mates Gerda Ziemele and Alba Saiz Barriuso. Club loyalties were cast aside for this tight encounter, with Ziemela eventually winning by a single hit with the final score standing at 15-14. Medals aside, the competition was a success in terms of participation alone, with thirty athletes competing for UCDFC in total.

The final competition of the year took place just two weeks ago in Cork City, as the novice fencers travelled to the Mardyke Arena for the Schull Novice Cup. Following along the same trend, the tournament proved a big success, with Phoebe Ireland medalling in both the women’s foil event and the epee alongside club mate Anne Hege. In the men’s category, Daniel Forde achieved bronze in the men’s sabre event, while Conor Duggan finished a credible second place in the foil event, no mean feat considering he just began fencing in September!

All things considered, 2017 has been a huge success for UCD Fencing, and the club will be looking to continue this upward trajectory over the coming year.

UCDFC caters for individuals of all levels and experience, and conducts four weekly training sessions. For more information on how to get involved with Fencing at UCD, visit the club Facebook page @ucdfencing.

Chris Foley – Sports Editor