‘The World travelled road to Washington’

MBA case competitions are a quintessential part of the MBA experience for many ambitious students. Eoin and I found a Case Competition titled ‘IBM Case Competition, The Challenges of Digital Strategy’.  The final of which would take place in the McDonough School of Business part of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. USA. After a quick discussion about the suitability of the competition, we set about putting together a team of complementary skillsets, attributes and personalities, a team we felt could go to Georgetown and win- enter Huyen and Marcelo.

2018 was the seventh year of the IBM-Georgetown Case Competition. Each year a real case based on a U.S. government department is produced. In 2017 this was the Department of Defense, the 2018 case that we received was based on the problems facing the National Park Service (NPS).

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For the first round we were required to submit a five minute video submission detailing our strategy to resolve a case study based on the real life problems facing the National Park Services, problems which included a $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. This was a challenging case with a deadline that clashed with our International Business Trips. The Friday before setting out on our respective adventures we filmed a segment together in Smurfit, as can be seen in the photograph below:

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Karan Sonpar and Pat Gibbons were extremely generous with their time and gave the team fantastic support with the case throughout. With Karan and Pat helping us we began to wonder was destiny conspiring for us to advance to the second round in Georgetown. To produce a quality strategy to this difficult case, every spare minute was utilised by all team members on both sides of the Pacific Ocean with a major part of our round 1 solution being solved on the back of the buses which took us from the company visit to company visit. Our Global Virtual Team experience from semesters 1 and 2 was also put to good use with Skype calls taking place, not easily with a packed schedule and 12 hour time difference between Hanoi and Lima, but where there is a will, there is a way.

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We decided that the theme of our video submission would be that we travelled the world searching for the best solutions to solve the NPS problems, below you can see photos at the various locations where we filmed.

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Returning to Dublin on Friday 23rd March 2018, still jet-lagged we met up on Saturday to finish our submission, upload to the video on YouTube as per the case requirements and inform Georgetown. Twelve days later our belief that we had been produced a quality solution was vindicated when we were one of the 9th out of the 30 plus teams who entered to be chosen to compete in the finals in Georgetown. After an excited talk with the team and the MBA Programme Office we accepted our place in the final, little did we know then what we had let ourselves in for over the next 12 days!

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For the following 12 days, we all had to step out of our comfort zones, further than any point so far in our MBA experience to date. The second round case built on the first round, however teams were allowed to build on what they had already produced in round 1 or tear up their existing strategy. As a team we decided that our strategy from the first round would not be good enough to win and so we essentially started again. The team dynamic was really good, we were all on a mission to produce a winning strategy for the NPS, apart from attending lectures all team members spend every minute of our time on the case. Two days prior to the competition, one day before flying to Washington D.C. we were pushed to the limit. We presented 3 times that day with an evolving presentation, receiving feedback from the MBA Programme Office, academics and our fellow classmates. That Wednesday night after 10 days of internal debate, external feedback and not enough sleep we settled on our presentation (well most of it anyway!).

Thursday morning we got to the airport and our 12:55 flight with United Airlines was cancelled! We go to the United Airlines desk, let them know that we can’t wait for the next flight which is tomorrow because of the competition and we were put on the 12:30 flight with Aer Lingus.

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We arrive in Dulles International Airport at 15:30 EST and call an Uber to our hotel. After some shopping for essentials in a dollar shop and a fine meal in KFC, we return to practice for the following day’s competition, just after midnight and having been awake for over 24 hours we called it a night.

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Friday morning we started the day right with Pancakes, butter, bacon and eggs, the breakfast of champions, except Marcelo who had cereal, toast and two cups of coffee! On the way to Georgetown we got excited when we drive past the Pentagon and spot the Washington Monument, which prior to the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world and is managed by the NPS, one of many NPS sites that we were set to visit over the weekend.

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We arrived at Georgetown to a warm welcome from the competition committee. One thing I have not mentioned thus far is that all teams throughout rounds 1 and 2 had to remain anonymous until the final results were given, to prevent any potential bias from the judges. After registering, conversing with our competitors and a welcoming address from IBM and Georgetown, we were shown to our private room and told to make ourselves feel at home and that we would be called at 10:50, the countdown was on! For the most part we relaxed, did a small amount of practice got mentally prepared for the competition, 10:50 came and we were escorted to the lecture theatre, in front of us was 5 judges from IBM, the three teams who had presented already that morning and some Georgetown students, all keen to see what strategy the most culturally diverse team in the competition would propose to IBM and the NPS. Our 15 minute presentation was timed to perfection, we answered all the questions to the satisfaction of the judges and at 11:15 left the lecture hall to a round of applause. We were on cloud nine and slowly floated back to our room full adrenaline and the joy of performing to our ability under pressure.

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In the afternoon we had lunch, networked, spoke to IBM’s HR/recruitment representative, and received a tour of the Georgetown campus. 15:20 the moment of truth arrived, IBM gave general feedback on the groups which was invaluable, given that we were all acting as IBM consultants in this round, then the top 3 were presented. Unfortunately we did not place in the top 3 but we were satisfied with our performance and extremely proud that we had gone to Georgetown to present a quality strategy to IBM on a real case and most importantly represented UCD and the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School with pride and conviction.

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After the event we retired to the Bulldog Tavern to share some refreshments with the IBM judges, the McDonough School Associate Dean and our fellow MBA competitors, who predominantly were attending business school in the U.S. but hailed from all over the world. After an entertaining evening with we set off for our Airbnb, exhausted we all fell asleep before 10 p.m. The next couple of days were amazing, the Mall in Washington and the museums which border it need to be experienced. Washington D.C. is a beautiful city and definitely worth including as part of a U.S. East coast trip.

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As a team we must thank on an individual basis, Ro Downing, Agnieszka Wisniewska, Emma Mescall, Pat Gibbons, Karan Sonpar and Bob Brennan. We would also like to thank our classmates for their feedback on our presentations and for their support in general which meant a great deal to us.

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To conclude everyone in the team pushed themselves to the limit for the IBM-Georgetown Case Competition. When the case was released two days before the International trip the easy thing would have been to say it can’t be done, but we said let’s have no regrets and give it our best effort. The lesson here is if there is something you want, don’t look for or accept excuses, keep trying, be brave, keep learning from your efforts, engage with the right people and you will get where you need to be, we promise you and you will be a better person for it.

James Kelly, MBA Full Time 2017/18

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Reliving the Danville Dream- MBA Rugby Team 2018

It all started with that initial presentation from Brendan ‘Mac Daddy’ Staunton in E101 in the Smurfit building. Followed by a wet and windy Friday night in Monkstown Rugby club where record numbers turned out for the first training session taking by Oisin ‘Crusher’ Farrell. It was the start of the long journey that would inevitably leads us to be crowned world Champions!

With numerous fundraisers and multiple emails sent to companies, the day was finally upon us, the 12th of April was the flight to Charlotte airport! After organising training facilities, two coaches (Tom ‘Nolo’ Nolan & Oisin ‘Crusher’ Farrell), flights, accommodation, insurance, jerseys, all 44 of us (men and women’s teams) were set to play in the 38th MBA Rugby World Cup in Dansville, Virginia. Smurfit have attended the tournament for the past 19 years and wanted to keep this tradition alive; winners on numerous occasions.

A key competitive advantage we had was the inclusion of one of our coaches on the trip ‘Nolo’, wise beyond his years, his knowledge played an important role in our success. This was clear when he turned players who have never played before into try scoring & tackling machines, having never made a tackle in his life before.

The tournament’s first game on Saturday saw us rise at the early hour of 7am to face Yale. The marker was well and truly laid down early with Cameron ‘No Hands’ Kenny landing a massive hit in the first phase of rugby. Slick hands and direct running allowed Gavin ‘I want to be a centre’ Bolger to finish under the posts for our first score of the competition. Neatly converted by the man who doesn’t miss Jack ‘I actually missed two easy kicks’ Duffy and our player of the tournament. The dominance was further shown by running in three tries before half time, and this also included Cameron ‘No Hands’ Kenny being rather easily stripped of the ball as he went to touch it down under the posts! Some say that it was inexcusable, and they would be right to say so! Fantastic performances from some men who have never played rugby before, Dermot ‘I love teeny bopper songs’ Murphy & Padraig ‘Podge’ Curry.

After witnessing the comfortable win over Yale, Columbia decided it would be best for their players welfare if they conceded; mostly since Patrick ‘I tackle like a train’ Hinkson put up some strong tackles against the Yale players. A set score of 35 nil was awarded to us!

Two from two and up next was SMU, with the lads ready to go after feeling robbed by not getting to play Columbia. Sean ‘I got some Sun’ Brew laying down early markers with running direct lines and clever off-loading allowed Matthew ‘I’m not warming up its roasting out’ Scaife to grab his first try of the competition. He also bagged one for himself. Tom ‘I’m the coach so I’m playing this game as captain’ Nolan togged out to allow some players rest. He missed a tackle! A special note to Brendan ‘Mac Daddy’ Staunton, who with the longest run up in history for a kick landed one from an extremely tight angle following our last try scored by Gav ‘I was robbed of top try scorer’ Bolger.

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The first day was coming to a close, bodies were sore and our toughest challenge LBS was up! Jack ‘I don’t miss’ Duffy landed an early 3 points to put Smurfit on the board. This was cancelled out by two penalties by the LBS out half. With tensions high, fatigue setting in and a disallowed try from Rob ’41 not out’ Becker, a much-needed piece of team brilliance allowed Gav ‘I sneak a lot of tries’ Bolger to finish well under the posts. With our backs against the wall LBS managed to sneak a last-minute try, which was converted, to finish winners on the day 13-10. That signalled the finish to the Saturday and the feeling of disappointment that we experienced after that game, we knew we weren’t going to allow it to happen again.

Following the disappointing end to the group stages on Saturday, the Men’s squad begrudgingly awoke at 6:45am on Sunday morning. Our Quarter-Final vs Columbia A kicked off at 9am, and, owing to the controversy experienced with Columbia the previous day, the lads were ready for action. There was a true sense of animosity to be felt on the pitch as the boys put in a clinical and physical performance against a team who, well let’s just say they should have stayed in bed that morning.

The Quarter-Final victory vs Columbia meant we were to play the old enemy, London Business School, in the Semi-Final, at 1pm. The loss to LBS late the previous evening had no impact on the confidence in the team, we were even more motivated to get the win. A piece of brilliance from Peter “I never eat carbs” Condon, displaying scintillating speed and strength to score under the LBS posts, as well as two well kicked penalties and a conversion from Jack “I don’t miss” Duffy, brought the score to 13-0 to Smurfit with 9 minutes to go on the clock. What was to happen in those last 9 minutes epitomised what UCD Michael Smurfit rugby was all about. Through blood, sweat and tears (tears from assistant coach Niall Connolly) and true heart and courage, Smurfit held out a 42 phase onslaught on their own try line to deny LBS any points, winning the match 13-0 and booking themselves a place in the Final. Special mention should go to Stephen MacCarthy who, after sustaining hyper-extension of every finger on his left hand, went back on to put in a serious defensive shift, only to be injured and ruled out of playing in the remainder of the tournament.

A shock result in the other Semi-Final between tournament favourites, Ivey and Wharton, meant Smurfit would face Wharton in the Cup Final. We knew how physical Wharton were going to be, considering the sheer size of their forward pack and how dominant they were against Ivey. Even though we were the smaller side physically, our intelligent and unparalleled defensive effort, including a vital turnover on the brink of the half-time whistle from Ronan “Factor 50 please” McDonagh, meant we led 3-0 at the break. The lads were visibly shattered, and who could blame them, they had accumulated 200 minutes of game time in 28 degree heat! In moments such as these, however, true leaders come to the fore to galvanise a team, to push them that small bit further. In this case, Peter “Jazz Hands” Condon delivered a half-time team talk Al Pacino could only have dreamed of delivering. The message was clear: ‘20 minutes, of everything you have left, and that cup, that piece of silverware we’ve worked all season for, is ours.’

In the final 20 minutes of the tour, the lads displayed some of the best rugby I certainly have ever had the pleasure of witnessing, and showed why they were deserving champions. Second half tries from Rory “Go on Blackrock!” Doyle, Dermot “Wheels” Murphy and Hubert “One Can Wonder” Gallagher, as well as two penalties from reliable Duffer and only what one can describe as the most spectacular conversion kick from Brendan “Mac Daddy” Staunton, which, may or may not have been, in front of the posts.

Special mention must go to the man of the match of the final, Eddie “The Langer” Beechinor, whom, with a serious ankle injury sustained in the quarter-final, put in a performance fellow Munster man, Paul O’Connell, would have been proud of. This dedication from Eddie epitomised the character of not only the Cork man, but the character and determination of each and every member of the squad.

It truly was an honour and privilege coaching this great bunch of lads. I have made some great friends and have amazing memories of what was a spectacularly unforgettable trip. This really was a squad effort, all 34 playing members contributed in spades and it is an achievement they should be immensely proud of.

To sign off, I would like to say a few words about my superb assistant coaches, without whom, none of this would have been possible. Firstly, to Oisin “Crusher” Farrell. Oisin was with us from day one and looked after the forwards for the season. Unfortunately, due to work commitments, Crusher could not travel with us but I know the lads will join with me in extending our deepest gratitude to a man who deserves as much plaudits as anyone for this successful tour. Secondly, to Niall “Limpy” Connolly, a massive thank you for stepping in last minute for Crusher, who couldn’t play himself due to a broken ankle. To be able to bounce ideas off and gather advice from such an intelligent rugby mind is invaluable for a Head Coach, and I will be forever grateful to Niall for his help over the weekend.

Until next year,

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Coach Tom “Nolo” Nolan, B.Sc. Sports and Exercise Management, and Assistant Coach Niall “Limpy’ Connolly, M.Sc. Management

Saturday Group Stages Sunday Knock-out Stages
Yale- 57-0 W

Columbia B- 35-0 W

SMU- 38-0 W

LBS A- 10-13 L

QF- Columbia A-24-0 W

SF-LBS A- 13-0 W

Final- Wharton 25-0 W

 

Well done to the winners of the Smurfit MBA inter-class case competition

Congratulations to the winning team from the Fulltime MBA class who are this year’s winners of the annual in-house interclass case study competition.  Three teams battled it out on Saturday 17th May last in what proved to be a very closely fought competition.  The FT team overcame two Year 2 EMBA teams – one from the Weekend and one from the Midweek class.

The winning Fulltime team are Trevor Whelan, Paul Gardner, Niall O’Muire, Mark Lawton and Mike Noonan. A special mention for the judging panel who had a tough job – Prof. Pat Gibbons, Prof Aikens and Richie Sommerville (MBA 2013) from last year’s All Ireland winning team.

The team will now go on to represent the school at the MBAAI All Ireland Strategy Competition on June 21st next.  UCD Smurfit School has the honour of hosting this event this year as defending champions from 2013.

Not adding any extra pressure, but suffice it to say that nothing less than a win is expected once more.

Smurfit ‘Team Shamrock’ at the Yale Case study competition – the video

Team Shamrock have created another video for their recent trip to Yale to take part in the Yales Raw Case Study competition.  While narrowly missing out on a place in the final they did do UCD Smurfit proud by winning the ‘Best Leadership and Team Dynamic’ award and clearly had a great time doing it.  Yale looks amazing.  Thanks to Steve Kelly for the video and well done on subtly working Aer Lingus into it.  Congratulations again to Steve, Shaun O’Keefe, Jim Gannon and Peter Lee.

UCD Smurfit win Best Leadership and Team Dynamics Award at Yale University

Peter Lee, Shaun O'Keefe, Jim Gannon, Yale Dean Edward Snyder and Steve Kelly

The Yale School of Management Integrated Leadership Case Competition was held over the 5th and 6th of April at their campus in New Haven. With 13 universities selected from premier US business schools and the Yale Global Network for Advanced Management, the participant list benefitted from a geographical breadth as well as quality in depth. Teams were evaluated on their resolution of a 7 hour case in the Yale RAW Case Study format, a data rich format that requires the teams to focus on key issues early and to filter out the key relevant information and data. The Smurfit School of Business team (Jim Gannon, Steve Kelly, Shaun O’Keeffe and Peter Lee) were evaluated by a panel of judges and an in-room invigilator who considered leadership and team dynamics against pre-determined metrics. Although narrowly missing out on a place in the Final, the Smurfit team were successful in winning the overall award for Leadership and Team Dynamics, which included Yale School of Management, MIT Sloan and Carnegie Mellon Tepper schools of business among others. The team are very grateful for the support provided by both Smurfit and Aer Lingus, and are confident that the bond between the schools has been further strengthened by their participation, ensuring value for both faculty and future students.

Internal Case Competition Heats Up

As the internal UCD Smurfit MBA Case Competition approaches, the MBA 2014 cohort is creating alliances in the form of 4-5 member teams and preparing to do verbal battle. Classmates, friends, and competitors will go head-to-head to be named the MBA Case Competition winners, and to earn the honour of representing The Smurfit MBA programme at the MBA Association Ireland Strategy Case Competition later this year.

They may sweat and perhaps shed a tear, but let’s hope there’s no blood drawn as the teams use their knowledge and skills to out-smart each other.

As inspiration we give you memories of Team Shamrock who represented UCD Smurfit at the last Molsen Case study competition in Canada and did us proud.

An Experience of a Lifetime – John Molson International Case Competition 2014

Oh, what have we done!”  As December dawned, the realisation of what our team had committed to was finally hitting me.  Whilst undertaking final lectures, finalising projects, preparing for exams and thinking ahead to the annual dilemma posed by Christmas presents, we were also preparing for a case competition, trying to find sponsorship and planning our journey to Montreal.  In hindsight, it was lunacy!

The UCD Smurfit Team with Professor Pat Gibbons (second from left)

The John Molson International Case Study Competition is the preeminent MBA case competition and it provides an opportunity for MBA students to benchmark their learning against the best that other global schools have to offer.  It is truly global with schools from Australia, Brazil, Israel, US, Canada and Sweden to name but a few.

Thankfully, everything came together prior to the Christmas holidays with Aer Lingus and Molson Coors Ireland seeing our cause as a worthy one and providing the necessary sponsorship.  Also, having some seasoned travellers in our midst was a great assistance when plotting the best route to Montreal via Boston and a road trip.

Whilst driving from Boston to Montreal between a polar vortex and the worst snow storms that have hit the North East in a decade, we realised that things were conspiring with us for once (although we were still happy to have chosen the largest vehicle in North America to transport us).  This got us in good spirits from the off and provided ample time for some craic and team bonding!  Arguably, the most interesting moment came when we passed a man seated on a snow mobile at the side of the road with a rifle resting on his legs…  One of those eternally peculiar spectacles!

When we arrived in Montreal, it was straight to business, buying the requisite stationery and attending the opening ceremony where we discovered that we would be competing against Universities from Nanyang, Singapore, Wilfred Laurier, Kent State & Lund.  From here it was onwards to the seemingly endless barrage of cases, presentations, questions, and conversing with new acquaintances.

Who would have known that you could learn so much about yourself in a 3 hour period?  Time has never flown by as quickly as the time that we spent in the preparation room.  Reading, understanding, analysing, synthesising, discussing, agreeing, recommending, debating and implementing a case regarding a strategic proposal for a company should be given more time!  However, we were confident in our own ability and ultimately we learnt that as a team, we are rock solid (a point where others noticeably failed).  If we were ever going to crack, it would have been when PowerPoint crashed with only 10 minutes of preparation time to go in one of the cases, however the team stepped up to the mark and we performed admirably to complete the task in front of five high level executives acting as judges.

At a fancy dress night out - networking while looking good

Completing five case studies in four days is unfathomably taxing on both the body and mind.  However, it wasn’t all work, as we had ample opportunities to get to know the other competitors, their entourage and the organisers through events as diverse as an ice hockey match, a networking dinner and a fancy dress party, not to mind the specially organised hospitality suite in the hotel!  It was a fantastic experience overall getting to know people ranging from students in Kaiserslautern to a coach from Singapore.

With the weather transpiring against us, we had to cut short our last evening in Montreal to make a midnight dash for Burlington, USA ahead of the imminent freezing rain which the resident Canadians advised us would shut down all efforts to travel out of Montreal for a few hours.  Thankfully, it all worked out and we arrived safely in Boston in time for Aer Lingus to deliver us safely back to the Emerald Isle.

Video of the UCD Smurfit Team at Molson Case Competition 2014

Shaun O’Keeffe

EMBA 2014

Ireland

The road less travelled – giving rugby a shot.

“Please tell me you are not playing rugby but only helping out with the equipment department!” – Timothy Downs

The above quote comes courtesy of my brother in response to telling him I signed up for the UCD Smurfit Rugby Football Club. A little background info for the readers: I’m 5’8” and weigh 145 lbs soaking wet (that’s 65 kg for you Continentals). I’ve never been much of an athlete either. And sure, trying rugby for the first time is a bit out of my comfort zone but that’s kind of the point. It’s kind of the point of doing this whole UCD Smurfit MBA thing too.

I could have followed an easy path and continued working at my old job. But I didn’t want to keep living my life on autopilot. Everyday was basically the same: routine, static.  At times to spur growth you need make a drastic change to the status quo. And if I can jolt myself out of my comfortable routine I suppose I should keep that theme going throughout the rest of the year.

So, I’ll give rugby a shot. Sure, I may get knocked down and banged up on the pitch but that’s okay. Now is the time to try new things. If it doesn’t work out at least I can say I tried. So long as I finish my UCD Smurfit MBA with the same number of teeth that I started with, I’ll mark it up as a successful year.

Tony Downs,

FTMBA 2014.

UCD Smurfit MBA Rugby Defence is Up & Running for 2014.

There is a quote I often like to fall back on and whilst it originates from the sporting world, it is pertinent across all aspects of teamwork.  It comes from the man who is revered in NFL circles (especially those from Green Bay) – Vince Lombardi.  

One of the greatest sports coaches of all time, he  said ‘The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand’. Given that the UCD Smurfit rugby club is focused less on playing rugby and more on ensuring there is an opportunity to play the sport, this is apt.  With the not inconsiderable task of putting together a squad and ensuring we have the funds to travel to the US to defend the MBA Rugby World Cup, our small, dedicated and hard working committee has hit the fundraising road as early as possible.

On Tuesday 29th October, UCD Smurfit Rugby FC held what is hoped will be the first of many table quizzes in the Dark Horse on Carysfort Avenue. Whilst some of the question rounds proved trickier than hoped (maybe the rugby questions should’ve been easier…), the pub was buzzing with arguments about the second largest city in the EU, what the highest selling album of all time was and what is that obscure country that begins with a ‘D’.  With the division of labour across the committee and the opportunity to drive additional fundraising through selling questions and phone use, the rugby club committee was kept busy. With the kind support of the Dark Horse (MBA students can make time for the pub), it is hoped that there will be many more table quizzes during the year.

It was great to see some of our predecessors and other members of last year class come out and support this first event – we hope to see them more often! With all funds going towards ensuring that the club can attempt to defend the MBA Rugby World Cup in April, every little bit certainly does count.

With the hard work, dedication and determination shown at getting this first fundraiser put together and executed, there is no doubt that the UCD Smurfit rugby club will make a success of the task at hand.  With ongoing support from family and friends and growing interest in the club, future quizzes will promise to be even more competitive, so get your thinking caps on!

Keep an eye on the club’s website:  http://www.ucdsmurfitrugbyfc.ie/

facebook page:  www.facebook.com/UCDSmurfitRugbyFC

and twitter @ucdsmurfitrugby for news of the next event.


Jim Radmore, UCD Smurfit Rugby Football Club Chair 2013-14.

FT MBA 2014.

UCD Smurfit MBA Investment Competition 2013

I hope the participants are enjoying the competition so far and learning from the practical experience of trading….we’ve had a challenging market environment with infinite QE hangovers and traders doing their best to ignore the US federal shut-down… it is really interesting to see the different trading strategies at work across the competition….and now some good news; UCD MBA Office has put up with two really excellent prizes (thanks Michael);

First prize is a very nice selection of wine – this will be for the overall winner….But, that’s not all! – we also have a ‘most interesting trade’ prize of a €50 book token – to be judged by myself and an independent person from a selection of your trades that are very unusual, creative, brave or just plain stupid!….we’ll have a look at all trades but if you spot a candidate for this prize send your nominations to me, so get going on those exotic trading positions (judge’s decision is final etc. etc.).

In view of the really great prizes on offer and our busy schedules, I am extend the trading game until close of US markets on Friday 18 October 2013.


Markets re-open in under 1 hour – happy trading!


David Flynn.

EMBA 2013.