UCD Fencing Club has the proud distinction of being one of the University’s oldest clubs. It was founded in 1954, and, according to their website, joined gaelic games, soccer, rugby and athletics, as the college’s only clubs at that time.
The club was founded by Rev. Fr. O’Doherty, and with the practical help and experience of Irish Olympic fencer Patrick Duffy, he led UCD to compete - very successfully, as it turns out - with the more established clubs of Trinity College and the Royal College of Surgeons. Overall, the club now has 20 Intervarsity Championships to its name, along with other team and individual competitions.
Through strong leadership and the diligent work of its members, it remains a prestigious and successful club to this day. The club boasts 120 members, and attracts a good number of 20-plus people to training sessions which are held three nights a week in the Sports Centre. The club will also host their Alumni Dinner later this semester, which will bring together current and past members to celebrate their 65th anniversary. They will no doubt have some interesting stories and victories to reminisce about, and perhaps some tales from its early days.
The club competes in a broad range of competitions across the year. They are run frequently and informally, giving members plenty of opportunities to improve their skills and move up the ladder. This also presents a chance to get their hands on some silverware and to meet up with like-minded people from all over the country.
I spoke to Club Captain, Phoebe Ireland who remarked that the club “has focused more on training and development than the social life aspect of the club this year, although that isn’t to say the members do not enjoy night outs and meet ups.” The reason for a greater focus on competition is clear when you look at the recent honour roll for the Intervarsities. “Trinity has won for the last 11 years, after UCD had won 6 in a row. It’s a streak which the club are desperate to break.” This year’s competition will be hosted by NUI Galway at the end of March, with the club hard at work in preparation. UCD also hosted the East of Ireland Open in February, the largest student run competition in the country, and will host the annual Colours event later in the year.
The club enjoyed great success at the Irish Intermediates which were held in October of last year. James Wyatt and Phoebe Ireland both won bronze in the foil competitions. Andrea Petrignani achieved gold in the men’s saber, while Alba Saiz Barriuso won bronze in the women’s saber. Alisha Mullen also came away with a silver in the women’s épée competition, and achieved bronze at the East of Ireland Open.
Ireland talked me through their training sessions “which involves foot work, blade work, and of course 1-on-1 combat. There is also steam fencing which is the term given to a bout without the use of electrics. This way of practicing is good for beginners to get a first taste of duelling.” The sessions are run by pentathlete and UCD Ad Astra Sports Scholar Tom O’Brien, and international fencer and former club captain Owen McNamee. Also a member of the club, is Olympic pentathlete Arthur Lanigan O'Keeffe, who garnered attention following some impressive international performances, including a gold medal at the UIPM World Cup last year. Members can train in any of the three fencing disciplines of foil, épée, and sabre. Different types of swords are used for each discipline and there are different targets and ways of scoring as well.
All in all, it is a club with many benefits, most notably the brilliant opportunities to train in a professional environment, and compete nationally. The club caters for all levels, and as Ireland puts it, it is the ‘sport for unsporty people’, and ‘why not dress up as a beekeeper and stab your friends?’ On top of that, the club also provides all the gear, so despite reservations people may understandably have about buying fancy swords and protective equipment, it is quite an inexpensive sport to take part in.
You can contact the club through their Facebook page.