As we move through the last set of our exams for Semester 2, I sit back and wonder. These will complete the exams we have to take for our MBA, so … is this the end of my exam life forever?
Having left college in 2003 I always figured that I would end up doing further education at some point. So I never thought of those as my last exams. However, having gotten up from my child-like seat in the cavernous exam hall on Saturday, after squeezing all my knowledge on financing new ventures in to a booklet for the previous 2 hours, I think I might have actually sat the last exam of my life.
Now this isn’t a lament on the differences between rote learning and whatever the other type is. I have been pretty successful in the Irish exam system which I feel sets a high benchmark for success and gave me great technical knowledge that I leveraged in my professional career internationally. This is more the realisation that after an MBA I don’t think there is much more additional education one can pursue to advance your career. True, there are other exams such as the CFA or Series 7 if you want to be an analyst (and there are probably more that I haven’t even thought of). But they are all career specific and not of the lecture/exam format that we love so much.
This is just one more thing to realise whilst doing an MBA; that it is the culmination of a lifelong learning journey. The first exam I can remember sitting was over 30 years ago, as a 6 year old, and I sat exams every year for the next 20 years. I liked exams so much I decided to take the scenic route through my undergrad and stay for an additional year so that I could enjoy the exam experience a few more times!
When I look at the paragraph above I only now realise the sheer volume of exams I must have sat so far in my life. So it is probably high time I do say goodbye to exam life. The path that we take through life and on the road to an MBA takes many forms, but we all have endured the unenjoyable (or enjoyable, if you’re masochistic) experience of exams. This is a global common bond for all students and I guess, like everything, it has to come to an end at some point.
So it is there in an exam hall in the RDS Simmonscourt, on Saturday 13th May 2017, that I close a large chapter in my personal journey – and that of EXAM LIFE.
As we enter the summer term of the full time MBA programme, I have come to realise how much diversity I, and my classmates, have been exposed to over the past nine months. Before I decided to undertake an MBA, I had heard some MBA graduates mention this point about “diversity” but I had underestimated the learning experience that diversity can offer.
In an MBA, diversity takes on many forms. Firstly there’s the diversity found within the cohort itself. This is a combination of cultural diversity (in our full time cohort of 32 students there are 10 nationalities), there’s age diversity and indeed diversity in our educational backgrounds and experiences! The result is a multitude of perspectives that contribute to some very thought-provoking classroom discussions. Coming from an engineering background myself, I have really enjoyed learning about other people’s previous work experiences and pre-MBA careers in various fields such as marketing, e-commerce, finance, IT and the entertainment industry. It has also helped me to realise how valuable diversity can be when it comes to problem-solving.
Secondly, the vast range of modules also presents another element of diversity. From accounting, financial analysis, economics and strategy to negotiation skills, ethics and executive decision-making! The volume of information is over-whelming but the skills obtained will not only be relevant to our future careers, but will be also be helpful in others areas of life, whether one realises this at the time or not!
Thirdly, the prospects we’ve had to immerse ourselves in, outside of the classroom, pose yet another realm of diversity. An international learning module to Japan and South Korea in March provided a unique opportunity to learn about new cultures, about doing business in Asia but also to get to know our part-time MBA classmates. I was also lucky enough to travel to Yale for the Integrated Leadership Case Competition in April, with three other classmates. This trip enabled us to meet other MBA students from 12 different business schools around the globe. Over the course of three days in Yale, it was refreshing to see how all students were genuinely interested in one another and embraced the diversity around them by exchanging anecdotes about their MBA experiences and offering each other helpful advice regarding post-MBA decisions.
To complete the international experience, we still have a week in Iceland to look forward to, where we will be working as consultants for a number of different companies.
For me, it took time to realize the value that all this diversity could bring, and I believe that I will continue to see its benefits over the coming years, in both my career and personal life. I am certainly more open now to looking at things with a different lens, than I was nine months ago. With this in mind, my advice for anyone considering undertaking an MBA is to truly consider its significance, not only from a career standpoint but from a non-career perspective too.
Newstalk, in association with UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, is offering one exceptional candidate the chance of a lifetime – an MBA scholarship to an upper value of €34,500 for the full-time or executive (part-time) MBA programme, starting in late August 2017.
Over three weeks from Monday April 24th to Sunday May 14th applicants for the scholarship must complete a short online entry form.
Previous Newstalk MBA Scholarship winner, Peter Hynes, discusses the impact that winning the scholarship has had on his career and personal development, and offers advice to anyone considering applying to the Newstalk MBA Scholarship at UCD Smurfit School this year.
As semester two draws to a close, and the finish line is starting to come into focus, now is the perfect time to reflect on what has been one of the biggest decisions of my life thus far – surrendering the 9-5 to return to education and the MBA.
There have been highs, there have been lows, and many sleepless nights either as a result of excessive studying or excessive partying!
Even as I write this entry, on the sunniest day of the 2017 thus far, the thoughts of getting over the finish line provide enough motivation to skip paying “respect to the man in the ice-cream van” for one day and keep the head in the books (H.P. Baxxter).
Without doubt, getting to spend seven days with my colleagues, immersing ourselves in Japanese and South Korean culture was the highlight. The historical significance of these countries, as well as being modern day industrial powerhouses, was such a fantastic journey to take with such close friends.
Taking in everything those cities had to offer, from the sushi to the singing at a karaoke bar ensured there was sufficient, and much needed, down-time to a very hectic schedule.
But it won’t stop there. No sooner will our exams finish in May that we will be back in the air once more to experience Iceland for a consulting trip and the excitement is palpable! “On the road is where we come alive” (David Brent).
The whirlwind nature of the programme so far shows no signs of stopping, and who would like it any other way?
“Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards” Kierkegaard
Forecasting is a doomed art! Those who try to predict the future invariably fail miserably. What I can forecast though is I will have mixed emotions of happiness but also sadness when this journey finishes. And boy has it been a journey! I decided to undertake the MBA because of a love of learning, for self-improvement and as a challenge: it was my treat to myself after a decade labouring as a consultant in the HSE. I also wanted to try to improve healthcare for all people within the HSE and I believed the MBA would give me skills to help achieve that goal. So was it the right decision?
It soon became apparent to me there are two tracks on the EMBA –those with and without children and partners. Where the course is a challenge for all of us, the real casualties of the MBA are the children and partners who suffer long absences, deadlines, cramming sessions for exams and late night skype calls. In the middle of my third semester my son said: “Dad, I don’t like the MBA, it means we don’t talk as much before I go to bed”. A stake through my heart! In fact my greatest stress throughout the course was, as we neared the end of the first lecture, would it end in time for me to talk to my son before he went to sleep.
It has been one of the most enjoyable learning experiences in my life. Academically highly educational with some truly inspirational teachers, a rich social interaction, life-long bonds made with team members forged through collective suffering, and most surprisingly of all, self-discovery. The Myer Briggs and 360 assessments really made me understand my motivations, passions and most of all my limitations. I also became aware that how I perceive and hear myself is very different to how others see and hear me. I gained wisdom through this course managing to avoid grade fixation and focussing on the journey itself; I feasted on the marrow of the MBA and mined the minds of the lecturers and classmates all washed down with at times contentious, but always good-spirited debate. The MBA was always about the journey to me, not the final arbitrary tabulation of effort.
So what of the future? We are clearly living in interesting and disruptive times. Moore’s law tells us computing power doubles every 18 months and we are at the dawn of AI displacing many millions of jobs as evidenced by the Fukoki-company outsourcing to IBM Watson Explorer recently. Other disruptive innovations including Crispr Cas 9 genome editing, 3D printing, driverless cars, internet of things, solar panel covered streets to power lights and cities, will all revolutionise our lives. We will live longer more affluent lives but will this necessarily translate to better quality lives? “Machinery which gives us abundance has left us in want, knowledge has made us cynical and cleverness hard and unkind, we think too much and feel too little, more than machinery we need humanity, more than cleverness we need kindness” (Charles Chaplin).
Equally compelling is the lurch to the political right, religious wars, economic stagnation with endless QE, lack of political leadership and the potential for further banking collapses with bail ins. But I have great hope for the future despite all these tumultuous events. That hope arises partly from my MBA experience because of the people I met. Simple acts of kindness: a mass card for a bereaved family member, baby hampers for a bouncing new arrival, organising a medical appointment for a child, and help for a classmate struggling with an assignment. An encouraging word, a kind smile, a nod that all will be okay.
This journey has made me wiser, walk softer and try to be kinder. Because the MBA isn’t about grades, it isn’t about degrees, it isn’t about money. It’s about people, the struggle you endure with them, learning from them and most importantly the friendship you give and graciously receive from them. I thank my classmates and lecturers for the wonderful two-year conversation we have enjoyed. Most of all I thank my family for tolerating this journey and carrying me along the way.
Maybe our journey isn’t ending, maybe it’s just beginning…
My scope of career expectations was very limited and I was pretty content with what I was doing at the time until the day the notion of MBA struck my little head. And suddenly there was a burning flame in me to move out of that zone and look beyond my horizon. But then for some reason, I preferred working for a few years before I could dive into an MBA curriculum. And then after 6 years’ experience it was time to shift gears. With a decent GMAT score and a reasonably good career profile, UCD turned into a dream option for me and I hardly had any doubts in choosing it over the other offers. Its critical to note that I had, by now, commenced fostering ambitions of moving into C-suite in years to come.
And here is the beginning of the struggle!!!
Let me now pull myself straight to the classroom from the office desk. It was difficult to adapt, honestly, and to go back to the study table after six years. Moving to a different city, rest aside a different country, can bring along a lot of challenges and changes, all of them bombard on your head at the same time. But that’s how one evolves and that has never been a headache for me. Luckily, I got a nice apartment along with my fellow Indian folks from the class. The foundation week was a nice “get-to-know-act” to start with and it helped lots of us to get to know each other well, even though I ended up remembering only the names of a few, still very poor with names ☹. We had a great outdoor activity on the very first day. Oops!! That was the second day as the Irish embassy too, like me, was late in giving me my visa (pun intended).
I believe and really advocate the fact that my study group was outstanding. The group had fantastic people who were committed and sincere and I learned highly from them. We made sure that our group protocol was maintained and respected by each one of us. We always planned well before the due dates and on many occasions, we were way ahead of other study groups (source – internal informers). Also, it’s worth mentioning the couple of beer chit-chats we had at The Dark Horse. Aisling, Conor, Elena, Linh hope you guys are having an exciting time!!
Coming back to my own learnings and experiences, let me turn objective and retrospective. Was I happy to do the MBA? Absolutely yes!! Did I start off well? I guess yes!! Was there a sense of disappointment over time? Guess so!! Reasons unknown. Did I get complacent over time? Yes truly!! That was the first mistake I made as I couldn’t resist the temptation and feeling of taking things for granted. From a Team dynamics perspective, I realized I didn’t put my best foot forward at certain instances. On the academic front, I wish there were more practical sessions implementing the classroom theories, though I was particularly impressed by the case study based approach in some of the modules. Luckily, there were always bagful of assignments to apply the classroom concepts. As they say, “knowledge is a waste until it is applied”.
Over the last nine months or so, I have realized the importance of maintaining your own identity among the students. It also justifies the admission criteria of bringing your own uniqueness to the MBA cohort. So, this is one of the key take-aways for me, something that I had forgotten to be mindful of. Time and again, we kept hearing, in the career and networking sessions, the essence of selling yourself and that can be best achieved if you stick to your own scheme of things with a pinch of improvisations. And here comes the most heard phrase – Network, Network, Network!!!
Networking is still an alien concept back in India and understandably I used to be short of words, rest aside ideas, when it came to networking with strangers. According to a typical definition, “networking is the art of creating, growing, and nurturing your personal, social, or professional connections”. I had no idea if it was an art or science or some uncanny professional act. I would feel like I was bidding for myself in those must sell situations!! My takeaway – There is no way one can learn professional networking unless it is practiced. I guess I am still nurturing this skill but there is a huge difference between how I connect now and how it used to go, let say, six months back.
So, what’s next? I am into my last three months of MBA and can’t wait to wear my office shoes again but this time with a bit more shine and gloss. I would say I have made my share of mistakes over the course of time and learned from them. Now it’s time to stop contemplating and put things into action. I am hoping the next three months are going to be more exciting than the last nine months. Hopefully, the Irish weather too stays lively. Give me some sunshine, give me no rain!!!
Wishing myself and everyone in the MBA cohort very good luck for a prosperous career!!!
Kevin Cardiff of the European Court of Auditors addresses the Dean’s Speaker Series
The Dean’s Speaker Series had another event last Wednesday when Kevin Cardiff of the European Court of Auditors and also Auditor of the European Stability Mechanism visited Smurfit School. The Dean, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh welcomed Mr. Cardiff to Smurfit. Mr. Cardiff is a decorated senior civil servant and regaled attendees with a detailed summary of economic history in recent decades, spanning the 1992 currency crisis and various iterations of the ERM up to the recent financial crisis of 2008 and beyond.
In a detailed address resembling memoirs, Mr. Cardiff described the tribulations of the 1992 currency crisis in fine detail – featuring newspaper clippings of the big events at the time including the days of major turmoil for Sterling and the Púnt, including the devaluation of the Púnt. He also touched on the advent of the Maastricht Treaty and the departure from the single currency of certain countries in its early days.
Mr. Cardiff described in detail the events of the 16th of September 1992, when the United Kingdom withdrew from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. What happened on this day was that Sterling had come under pressure from speculators who had begun a massive sell-off and the UK Government raised interest rates from an already high 10% to 12% with a promise that they would raise further to 15%, in a scenario that was unfolding by the hour. One of the causes of the acuteness of the crisis was the rules of the ERM, particularly that the Bank of England were required to accept any offer to sell Sterling.
The eventual advent of the European single currency was also addressed by Mr. Cardiff. He highlighted the widening of fluctuation bands via the Brussels Compromise of 1993 and Stages II and III of ERM, when mutual exchange rates between member currencies became fixed and the physical currency was introduced in the form of notes and coins.
Mr. Cardiff also gave a detailed review of the events of the financial crisis of 2008, including key developments in relation to the recapitalisation of financial institutions, which he also deals with in his book, “Recap”.
A short question and answer session followed Mr. Cardiff’s address, when the recent event of Brexit was noted and a discussion was had around the future for the European Union. All in all, the event was a thought-provoking and interesting perspective on recent economic history and food for thought in terms of what will happen next in the EU with respect to both regulatory developments and the overall structure of the Union.
All great journeys start somewhere. In our case we started on a wet Wednesday night in early February on a triangle of waterlogged grass adjacent to the UCD all-weather pitches. There was no room at the inn, we were forced to set up in the dimly lit corner stealing whatever light we could from the American football team training on the pristine surface just 10 metres to our left. We started off as the underdogs and remained so for the duration of this journey, just the way we like it.
The committee had first met the previous week to discuss the possibility of organising a team to attend the 37th MBA Rugby World Cup in Dansville, Virginia. Smurfit have attended the tournament for the past 18 years and we wanted to keep this tradition alive. We outlined the list of tasks we had ahead of us and set to work. It was no mean feat, we had 8 weeks to organise training facilities, a trainer, flights, accommodation, insurance, jerseys, corporate sponsorship and most importantly an actual team.
One of the major turning points and key to our success was the introduction of our Head Coach David “Manners” Mahon. Not much was known about him at the time, although there was a rumour he once fought superman and the loser had to wear his underwear over his pants. He managed to transform us from a bunch of misfits (half of whom had never played rugby before) into a well-oiled try scoring machine. We trained hard for 8 weeks and unfortunately, due to the intensive regime Manners insisted on, we lost a few soldiers along the way, ending up with a bare contingent of 15 lads and 7 ladies travelling.
With much blood, sweat and tears shed by the committee in getting the logistics in order, the day of departure arrived and we all set off for Danville, Virginia (some arrived sooner than others due to a storm over New York). Upon arrival we discovered we were sharing a hotel with the Harvard team which allowed great networking opportunities (the balanced scorecard was a popular topic of discussion to break up those awkward shared elevator journeys).
The tournament’s first game on Saturday saw the men’s team face SMU from Texas in a riveting contest. We demonstrated our dominance early when Cameron Kenny, who ate the hotel out of weetabix earlier that morning, decided to take on the SMU team himself and ran over for an early try. Dazzling footwork from full back Craig ”Joey Carbery” Kennedy led to two more tries which finished the game early. Our next opponents were Columbia Business School, where man of the match Kevin Lynam took the ball and barged past three stunned Columbia forwards to get us on the scoreboard early. Tries from Darragh ”Biceps” O’Neill and Eoghan “Stringer” Cudmore closed out the game and we marched on to face Wharton in our final game of the day. This was a tougher contest but we prevailed in the end through excellent forward play from the impassable trio of Jan Ullman, David Camp and Colin Dunne. We finished the group stages top seed with an impressive tally of 28 tries.
The newly formed women’s team had a rocky start losing their first touch rugby game to London Business school (A) who allegedly had 76 substitutes, which they used after every try. However, nothing like a defeat to ignite a spark and something happened in that post-game huddle that inspired the ladies to go on and win their next three games against Wharton, LBS B and Columbia. Talk of the first day was a try scored by Smurfit Ladies Captain Ciara Keane, getting the ball in her own half she weaved her way in and out of the Columbia defence to cross the line untouched to win the game in the dying seconds. Some compared it to the magic once conjured by a young Brian O’Driscoll. Incredible skills were demonstrated by all with some impressive team tries including an amazing diving touch by Lyn Markey. The ladies day finished with a tense drop-off game against LBS B that saw Smurfit emerge victorious after a well-rehearsed switch pass between Ciara Keane and Mary Sheehan opened up space on the wing to allow Sheehan touch down in the corner. A job well done by both teams. With sore bodies and big smiles we headed to the Danville farmers market for a BBQ and networking event with the other schools.
We awoke Sunday morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to prepare for our quarter finals.
The men’s team had drawn Wharton, a formidable Ivy league school from Philadelphia. We had a slow start to this game but true leaders, in the form of Leigh Carr and Niall Gallagher, emerged to score excellent individual tries to see us through to the semi-final. The ladies faced Yale in their quarter final, they scored three amazing team tries with Micaela Connery Maria Barry and Lyn Markey touching down. The men now faced their biggest challenge yet matching Harvard in the semi-final. At this stage our bare panel of 15 began to take its toll and we were reduced to 13 men through injury. Exceptional defensive work from Cathal Murphy and Will Sheahan was unfortunately not enough to keep the pocket protector wearing Bostonians out. We crashed out of the competition coming 3rd overall out of 16 teams, always the underdog.
The ladies breezed through their semi-final, with an exceptional defensive display from Kerry McLaverty, to find themselves in the MBA World Cup Final against their initial defeaters LBS A. I caught a whisper of Manner’s pre-final speech, it sounded somewhat familiar, something about “inches” and “Healing as a team or dying as individuals”, whatever it was it worked. With the sun shining down and tri-colours out in force the final began. It was a tight contest Mary Sheehan showed her resolve and came close to running over for the Irish. Alas, even great defence from Michelle McEvoy wasn’t enough to keep the Londoners out. LBS used their 76 substitutes to great effect and in the end, the fresh legs made all the difference with Smurfit having to settle for 2nd place. An incredible achievement for a group of ladies assembled hours before the tournament. What they achieved will go down in history as one of the greatest David vs Goliath stories the tournament has ever seen.
The weekend was truly an amazing experience and the committee would like to thank all of the students who travelled. You have done both your school and country proud. We would like to sincerely thank all our sponsors, especially Sinnotts Bar and Newstalk, without your generous assistance none of this would have been possible. A special thanks must also go to Orla and Zoe in the MBA programme office and everyone who attended our fundraising events, your support helped make the trip an overwhelming success.
However, the journey does not end here, both Men’s and Ladies teams have unfinished business left on that field in the woods of Virginia. The only thing that stopped both teams was a lack of resources, an issue we have plans to address. Luckily most of the team are undertaking the Executive MBA, meaning we have one more year to make things right and get Smurfit back to where it should be, Number 1.
I will finish with the words of a well-loved Irish Poet :
“We’re not here to take part…We’re here to take over”
One could argue that the main draw each Wednesday evening was the fine canapes and wine; but with over 1400 man hours of discussions and learning about entrepreneurship that were enabled this semester, the bait wasn’t really needed but was much appreciated.
The opportunity to get a first-hand interpretation of experiences from industry stalwarts, serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business gurus and a class of peers with a common hunger to solve a problem, any problem, has been truly beneficial.
The UCD Entrepreneurship Series, brought to fruition by The UCD College of Business and The Smurfit MBA Entrepreneurship Club, has been a successful collaboration under the stewardship of the Entrepreneur in Residence Majella Murphy and the MBA students. The legacy of which we hope continues into the future.
This year we saw the journey of UCD alumni, as they tackled the highs and lows of setting up their own establishments and heard their account of navigating the often-misunderstood entrepreneurial landscape. From idea generation, problem resolution to monetization, the forum has not only dealt with the necessary guidelines and tools but also efficaciously highlighted the bravado of the human spirit.
Two of the events gained substantial fame, the first was the visit of Patrick McGuinness and the latter comprised of a panel of Venture capitalists. Not surprisingly though, since two of the greatest fears before pursuing down this route seem to be the risk and raising finance. Patrick, the man behind the phrase FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, spoke of transitioning into entrepreneurship through a 10% approach (time, energy and funds) while the Venture Capital event dismissed several urban legends that we all perceived existed in the game.
Some of us came into the MBA with entrepreneurship experience and others came in with entrepreneurial ambitions, but rest assured most of us now have the aspiration to pursue our own path someday soon.
Schedule of events
From UCD Smurfit to Startup CEO
Journeys from UCD Smurfit to Startup CEOs.
Lukas Decker (Coindrum)
Ronan Byrne (Clearsight Innovations)
Stephen Quinn (Jobbio)
Their personal journey, the hows and whys, the choices and sacrifices, the highs and lows.
Inside the Incubator @ GEC
Insight into the Guinness Enterprise Centre, their offerings, introduction to current start-ups residing there and the opportunities to get involved.
Social Enterprise Scaling – CoderDojo
Bill Liao, CoderDojo’s first angel investor, as he recounts the story of the rapid global growth of their movement.
Unspoken Lessons from Failure
“It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”.
The 10% Entrepreneur
Choosing between the stability of a traditional career and the freedom of entrepreneurship?
Inspiring Creativity & Innovation @ Google
How does Google manage to generate, create, innovate and launch new products and services in an endless flow?
The Best Source of Funding Depends on…
“The best source of funding depends on where the company is at in their journey, what their needs are and the terms on the table for any particular deal.”
Hear three of Ireland’s leading and most respected Venture Capitalists and Advisors:
Joined by two entrepreneurs:
Neal O’Gorman (Artomatix)
Myles Murray (PMD Solutions)
Innovation – Accenture-style
With the launch of their Centre for Innovation, “The Dock”, hot off the press, what is Accenture’s strategy and structure around Innovation and what role does The Dock play in that?
Join Eva Maguire, designer of the internal innovation ecosystem at The Dock, to find out how they plan to make it work!
Social Entrepreneurship: A Serious Consideration
Have you ever considered that a social enterprise may not be much different from a commercial one?
Emma Walshe (COO Foodcloud)
Kate Dobbyn (MD Seachange Foundation)
Sinead McCool (Enactus Ireland)
Gain insight into what pursuing a social enterprise entails.
Real examples of what it takes to be successful, the challenges, the supports available and how sustainability can be achieved.
BREXIT: Opportunity or Threat for Irish Entrepreneurs?
“Turning the challenge of Brexit into an opportunity: How are entrepreneurs and their representative bodies preparing for Brexit?”
A stellar panel of entrepreneurs and senior representatives from government bodies for an insightful discussion on the impact Brexit, how and what contingencies have been developed, and what the government and the entrepreneurial representative and support bodies are doing to assist with the impact it will have on the entrepreneurial community in Ireland
Donal Hayes, Director, Tipperary Cheese
Paul Byrne, CEO, Currency Fair
Eamonn Molloy, Assistant Secretary, Britain & NI Affairs Section, Department of the Taoiseach
John McGrane, Director General, British Irish Chamber of Commerce
Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager, Financial Services & BPO, Enterprise Ireland
To find out more about the Smurfit MBA and various MBA Clubs, click here.
How many people get the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Not many. How many people would like the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Everybody you would imagine? Surprisingly that is not the case. Apparently many are only interested if it’s an all-expenses paid free ride.
This year we were much later getting started than the groups of other years. This was probably due to each of us waiting for someone more experienced than ourselves to take charge. Eventually, fearing that it would not go ahead at all I decided to have a go at getting it started. This was quite successful, 9 likeminded MBA students attended the first meeting with the collective goal of getting to Duke. We formed a committee and ran through a basic outline of tasks that were critical to success. These were focused on two main streams: fundraising and training. We knew we needed MSc students for not only numbers but also for skills. We quickly held meetings with those interested to get them on board.
As January drew to a close we were acutely aware of the need to get training immediately. This presented two main challenges. The first was finding an experienced coach to train us and the second was finding a rugby pitch to train on. We interviewed Warren Gatland but he said he was too busy preparing for the Lions tour and Joe Schmidt said he was fully committed to Ireland setup. Luckily we secured the services of David Mannion (Current Monkstown & Ex Leinster Juniors Coach). Securing a pitch was more difficult. Unfortunately we were told categorically by the IRFU that the Aviva was off limits until the summer and the GAA told us no more rugby would be played in Croke Park unless the World Cup 2023 bid was successful. We looked closer to home. We were denied a spot in Belfield due to the high volume of activity on the pitches including believe it or not American Football. Fortunately, through our coach we secured the use of Monkstown’s ground for training.
Obviously sending a team to the U.S. is not cheap. There is the cost of flights, accommodation, transfers, insurance, tournament entry, jerseys, medical equipment, food amongst other things. Fundraising is key to the success of it all. The earlier you start, the easier it will be. It’s certainly not an easy task. Begging people, even Alumni, for money is a challenge in itself. It’s even harder when they say no. Although you are asking on behalf of the college it is still quite difficult not to take the rejection personally. Nevertheless, you must pick yourself up and ask again. We are hugely grateful to all of our sponsors, particularly Sinnotts Bar for being our main sponsor, they backed us early when finances were looking bleak. Without them we would almost certainly not be going.
We also held a table quiz. We hit up our family, friends and classmates to dig deep into their pockets and back us financially. The response was overwhelmingly brilliant. People came in their droves and the venue was packed to the rafters. It’s great to see that those who know us believe in us.
We made it crystal clear from the beginning that players would need to cover their own flights. Although this was not the ideal situation, it was useful for separating out those who were serious about competing and those who were just looking for a free ride. This was tested further when it came to paying for the flights where more people dropped out. Thankfully we had a core group that believed in one another and in our ability to get this off the ground and they all committed their money. I believe the group is stronger because of this and we know that those who have committed are serious.
With less than a week remaining until the tournament, now our focus is on player management, specifically how we will need to be smart to try and avoid injuries and keep our composure whilst playing numerous games in the heat. Hopefully the next blog I write will be telling positive tales of the tournament. A ferocious amount of work has been done by everybody to get us this far. Please wish both teams (men’s and women’s) well.