Club Focus – UCD Fencing Club

Image Credit: Trinity Cup Team Competition 2019, Dublin. Credit Duncan Salter

Andrew Dempsey speaks with UCD Fencing Club captain Alexis Mandon after a success-laden spell for the club

Formed in 1954 by Rev. Fr. O’Doherty who, together with former Olympic fencer Patrick Duffy turned the UCD Fencing Club into an Irish force – the club has enjoyed a successful recent spell, dominating the intervarsity’s game.

However, while there are competitive benefits within the club – there are also a number of practical benefits that one may avail of within the club. And recently, we caught up with the club captain Alexis Mandon to discuss all the latest goings on at the club.

“Fencing is not just a physical sport; it is also very much a mental sport. People should take up fencing because it will help you grow intellectually while also improving your fitness. A person has to constantly be able to outsmart their opponent in order to score the points and realise when something isn’t working then their strategy needs to change in that match. This can apply to all things in life such as engineering, medicine, etc, when sometimes things don’t go according to plan and you need to get back to the drawing board or change your management plan.

“We have 3 different weapons in fencing which most people do not realize. They are called foil, sabre, and epee. We are very fortunate to be able to have actual coaches in each of the weapons, which is not common knowledge. Being able to have a coach in a specific weapon is the best way to cater to the fencers in that weapon and build upon and improve their skills. This is also great for people who have never fenced before to know, because it means that there is the opportunity for them to learn from scratch all of the basics from a professional and qualified coach.

“We have trainings 3 days a week. Senior only training are on Tuesdays from 8-10 pm, and our saber coach Owen is there; Thursday is mixed seniors and beginners 7-10 pm with our foil coach Joana; Friday is mixed training 4-6 pm with our epee coach Tom. At each training, before the coaches take over and run the training session, I as captain lead warmups, conditioning, and high intensity interval training.”

In terms of recent success, there has been a number of high-profile medals coming into the club, with a gold medal at North of Ireland Open from Noah Scott. Sun Haocheng grabbed a gold medal at the East of Ireland Open, while Alisha Mullen scored top honours at the West of Ireland Open. Andrea Petrignani their third gold at the South of Ireland Open, and there was also a silver medal from the A-Team at the Trinity Cup. At the Irish Open, there was a trio of bronze medals from Mandon, Alish Mullen and Brian Cowley. Noah Scott and Phoebe Ireland both grabbed bronzes at the South of Ireland Open. 

Along with an action packed recent spell with the club, there are a number of future club arranged tournaments in the offing as Mandon explained; “We are planning to implement an in-house competition during some trainings during the year, as a way to increase our competitive spirit within the club and as a fun way to change up trainings.

“Leading up to the intervarsity’s now, we decided to focus more on that, but we hope that this is something we can implement after intervarsity’s before the trimester ends.”

For captain Mandon herself, her involvement with the club was an easy enough jump of fate – given her previous interaction with the sport back home in the United States of America. “I have been fencing before coming to study in Ireland,” she added. “I was on my high school team in New York, and then competed for Cornell in undergrad. I did not fence for the first 6 months of starting at UCD, but then when I found out that there was a fencing club, I was delighted to join and get back into a sport that has been a huge part of my life.

“It has been a real pleasure and joy being captain this year and being able to implement high intensity interval training sessions into our trainings, which were not done before. I have been able to see the improvement in everyone’s fitness levels and even our coach Tom has said as much.

“It also has been a joy to see people being challenged and motivated to improve. I greatly enjoy sharing my fitness knowledge and helping other people improve their fitness levels to be the best athletes they can be.”