Smurfit Rugby Club

UCD Smurfit Rugby Team has brought home the MBA World Cup Trophy for 10 out of 11 years – well, the men’s team has. This year will be the second year in a row that the MBA program will also send a women’s team to the USA for the world cup, a feat that has only happened a handful of times before. As an American in Ireland, I had never even really watched rugby on the television let alone played a match in my life. And yet here I am, six months later, heading up the UCD Women’s Rugby Team (with a good friend, also a Smurfit MBA, who has extensive rugby experience). This year, we have one goal, which is to bring home a MBA Rugby World Cup, not only for the Men, but for the Women’s team also, which would be a first for Smurfit!

When asked to write an entry for our MBA Blog, it took me quite a while to come up with an experience to write about. Everything has happened so fast and intensely that it was a little overwhelming to come up with something to write about, since there seems to be so much going on in my head at one time! However, since Rugby has lately taken over my Tuesday and Friday nights, along with my Saturday and Sunday afternoons (we will call Saturdays and Sundays as studying up on the sport of Rugby by watching the “professionals” play in the 6 Nations).

Upon starting the MBA, the different representatives of all the MBA clubs (there are a lot of them) were paraded in front of us, where they told us about the opportunities offered by the different interest areas. Of course, when the Rugby Club came up, ears perked up, mainly because Smurfit has been the team to not only compete, but win the championship cup for so many years. Of course, it’s “great craic” as our friendly speaker insisted, but he also talked about the opportunities it opened as far as networking with other top MBA programs and the friendships and camaraderie you get as being part of an athletic team with other Masters students in the Smurfit School of Business.

Today, about one month away from our trip to the states, I can say that my experience has not been a disappointment!  I have met great guys and girls while participating on the team, and have also been able to achieve another of my personal goals in coming to Ireland, which was to learn more about a different culture, and learning about rugby (not only how to watch, but how to play) has given me an experience in Ireland. I am happy (albeit surprised) to say that I am the only non-Irish person on the women’s team (our coach playfully refers to me as the American rugby spy), and being a member of this team has given me a deeper and more real look into a pastime that is very important in the country. Almost like someone learning and getting understand the teams and the game of American Football if they go to the states. In class, I learn about business in both Ireland and other areas of the world (from an Irish perspective), and from my classmates I learn about the social norms of Ireland and Irish culture, but never can you truly be immersed in the culture until you take it on yourself to truly become involved in something that is of that country, outside of the contrived state of the classroom. I think I have done that with not only joining the Smurfit Rugby Club, but in being part of its leadership committee. I can’t wait until where the next month takes us as a team, and me individually, but I look forward to it and can’t wait to write a second entry in one month’s time detailing how we won!!

Heidi Hart

– Heidi Hart, FT MBA 12/13

Time is ticking!

My new adventure began in August 2012, now I’m in the middle of my second semester of my MBA, with our emerging markets trip setting off next week. This is a total turnabout from what I was doing this time last year.

From my previous life as a chartered physio, my life now is polar miles apart but that’s a good thing, I’m broadening my horizons and this will make me a more effective and well rounder person in my next new role, whatever that may be!

This time last year, I was very comfortable in my department with a set routine with great colleagues. A year on, and every day is different. The days can certainly be more challenging but there is a buzz about me! I’m learning so much, all these subjects are new to me…..I never thought I’d get a full sense of the finance sector but I’m beginning to see the light. I completed my first interview last week so things are moving along quickly. Concurrently, I’m in the middle of training our ladies rugby team to compete at the MBA Rugby World Trophy this April!

I have lots of things to look forward to, the networking events allow me to meet lots of different influential people both at home and abroad and I get the privilege of working with my diverse set of classmates.

I suppose its not all roses on the MBA, there is a multitude of work with challenges absorbing all the new information and of course, the dreaded R work, the recession,  sure isn’t our main focus to get a new job that excites us and will put our new skills to the test.

Michelle Mulcahy

I look forward to the next few months, I’ve been warned by many to cherish the experience, to get the most out of the MBA because it is over way too quickly and we will once again enter the working world. With my trip to Brazil and the USA with the ladies rugby team, I can only look forward to these unique experiences in the middle of the academic calendar!

– Michelle Mulcahy, FT MBA 12-13

From India to Dublin

It’s almost six months gone by and today we are in the second month of the second semester… and yes, I survived. Nonetheless I’ve come out stronger. Time flew and when I reflect back on the days spent on campus, it has been a hell of a ride. Lectures, presentations, group submissions, reports, continuous assignments and what not were the order of the day. The saga still continues but as the say in the old mafia way, I guess we have “made our bones” and are much better positioned to take on the world.

As we progress in to the second semester, it’s time for a reality check. Finally, why did I come to Smurfit School to do my MBA, in an unknown terrain, far away from home and with most basic factors working against me like the weather and food to name a few? Have I taken the right decision?

Well, the answer today is a thunderous YES. I was happily cruising along in life with a well set job but being in the field of human resources, I was convinced of the idea that a master’s degree could add to my future prospects. After completion of the application process, I had offers from universities of global repute but I finally zeroed in on the Smurfit School as a few facts stood strongly in its favour. First, the reputation of the college itself which has been ranked consistently in the top 80 in the world (we jumped 22 places this year…hurray!!), second the location, Dublin, the European tech capital and the last and most important, people around here who are warm, friendly and just make you feel at home. I cannot forget the date, 2nd Sept 2011 when I first stepped into the class. I was facing a cohort of 34 members representing 14 nationalities and I must admit, I was nervous for a while but as time moved on, it is this active group of fellow class mates who rode the highs and lows with me and I think my biggest learning’s have been from these turbo charged set of people who all, I am sure, will make a mark someday.

Life is not limited to study alone in Smurfit. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Rugby, a sport lesser known in India, has been an instant attraction. UCD, having won 10 out of the 11 finals of the world rugby championship is the place to be if you aspire to master the art of this game.  Drawn to the game, I can be occasionally be traced to the rugby field in Belfield campus. The Smurfit School is home to a great student cultural scene as well. Socializing and networking activities are regular. The recent Vietnamese social night was an opportunity to learn more about their culture while we couldn’t stop grabbing their delicacies.

Another exciting event is knocking at our doors, the international trip and me and my fellow mates are travelling to Brazil on an exchange program and are hoping to make the best of it. Brazil is an emerging economy like India and I am keen to have a first-hand experience of what life in Brazil is like. The study trip will help us appreciate the cultural differences between regions, culture being at the core of any major internal and external business decision makings.

The advantages of an international qualification, studying and living in a multicultural environment present an opportunity to learn even outside the classroom. While the MBA curriculum in the Smurfit School has, in what I believe, contributed to my professional development, the wholesome approach of the school combining the multifarious aspects of student life has indeed summed up in personal development as well resulting in a total learning curve. It has been a wonderful experience in so far whose benefits and value stand undisputed.

Sundeep Patnaik

– Sundeep Patnik, FT MBA 12/13

Get out of your comfort zone and let’s play some rugby!

When I joined the Full-time MBA programme at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in August of last year I never envisioned myself running around a pitch on a Friday evening in the torrential rain – let alone playing rugby. Well that’s exactly where I found myself three weeks ago when the MBA Rugby Club held its first training session! Although in a way I wasn’t complaining – at least I had something to blame for my lack of rugby skills!

The typical Irish weather did not deter the enthusiasm and dedication of some 40 club members, each one as determined as the next to travel to the MBA Rugby World Cup Championship in Danville VA, USA in April to defend our position as World Cup Champions for the 11th time!  We are delighted to have Steve McIvor on board again this year as team coach to help us in our endeavour. The picture below was taken after training. Aren’t we a handsome bunch!

Off the pitch (and back in my comfort zone!) I am busy working with the Club’s leadership team seeking sponsorship, fundraising and arranging the itinerary for the trip. This year Smurfit Kappa have agreed to partner with us and we are very grateful for their continued support. As part of our fundraising activities we are hosting a raffle on 1st March. Morgan Stanley have kindly sponsored the prizes which include tickets for the Heineken Cup Final and Ireland v France Six Nations game.

I attended a ‘Sport for Business’ networking event last week. It was a very enjoyable night with some really simple ideas generated as to how small businesses can activate their brand through collaboration with rugby clubs. It’s amazing what can be achieved when a few people with a shared passion for rugby and business get together in one room!

My involvement in the MBA rugby club is proving to be one of the highlights of my MBA journey. It is allowing me the opportunity to do things that I would never have otherwise done and at the same time brush up on my rugby skills of a Friday evening!

Therese O'Rourke

– Therese O’ Rourke, FT MBA 12/13

Rugby Reflections Part II

This is the conclusion blog on the 2012 MBA Rugby World Championships hosted by Duke University. There are many heroes, pictures, and stories from the tournament that unfortunately could not all be mentioned.  Here is the viewpoint of the MBA Rugby experience, shared from the perspective of a rugby novice on the men’s UCD team. Enjoy!

Game Day Practice

The men’s team was scheduled to play the opening match of the rugby tournament on Friday evening against host Duke University. Given we had an entire day in Danville, Virginia with nothing to do our Coach decided to have a mini practice.  The idea was that we would walk from our hotel to the pitch to allow our jet lagged legs to stretch and run through some plays. After forty-five minutes of walking, we realized Google maps had not mastered the optimal path to the hidden rugby pitches and our legs were getting more of a work-out on the hot pavement than our Coach had originally anticipated! At one point in our travels the road literally ended and I helped the team out by asking a local if we could cut across their field to get to the pitches. Needless to say this would be last time we walked from our hotel!

UCD Men’s Team before the first game

After the epic walk and we caught a taxi back to the hotel for lunch and enjoyed some downtime before our first match.  I followed the routine and rested my legs on the bed-although I did not expect to use them as much as my 6’8” roommate-who I found already asleep in the room after I returned from lunch. Soon after, the alarm sounded signalling that we had 15 minutes before loading on the team van for the match. I turned on the light full of adrenaline and quickly realized that my bag was missing!

My roommate stated he had placed our gear bags in the room next to ours when he went out for lunch because our lock was not working. The only problem with this plan was that our bags were now safely locked away in a room that belonged to members of our girl’s team who were out graciously shopping for team refreshments in preparations for our first game! I could not believe it. Here I was less than 15 minutes before my team bus would leave for my very first rugby match and I had to tell my Coach I may miss the bus!   I rushed downstairs and pleaded my case to the hotel manager to unlock a room that was not mine to take a bag I claimed was mine! She must have seen the panic in my eye as the manager finally agreed to the craziness and I made the team bus within seconds of it leaving.

Relieved that I made the bus, emotions were riding high as the team prepared for our first match. I quickly changed and stood on the side-lines to witness my teammates get off to a quick start, winning 33-5 . To my surprise, before the game ended  I was afforded the opportunity to sub into the game. I honestly did not know if I would even play during the tournament and it was exciting getting on the pitch to experience the adrenaline of the very first match of the 2012 World MBA Rugby tournament!

Women’s Tournament

The dynamic of the trip was greatly enhanced by having both a men’s and women’s team representing UCD Smurfit. The women’s 7 on 7 tag tournament began on Saturday and the UCD team got off to an exceptional start, going undefeated during their first day of competition! The team benefited from their quick speed which is captured in the photo below.

The women’s team concluded the tournament by finishing in 3rd place in a thrilling semi-final match to bring home another award for Smurfit. After their final match the referee was more than happy to pose with the ladies after their brilliant performance!

UCD Women’s Rugby Team

Men’s Tournament

The UCD Men’s team also went undefeated during the tournament, winning their first four matches by a combined score of 177-11. The team carried this momentum into their semi-final match versus Wharton.

Playoff Semifinal Vs Wharton 42-5

The word “focus” immediately comes to mind when reflecting on our Sunday semi-final playoff match. The players on my team were dialled in and our Coach masterfully set the stage with his pre-game talk. He even had me ready to run through a brick wall for my teammates as you can see from the picture below! This was a match far beyond my skills level and I gladly cheered the lads on from afar on the side-lines as they produced a physical semi-final victory 42-5. We then awaited our championship opponent with bated breath- would it be the London Business School A team or the undefeated Harvard squad…

The UCD Men’s team also went undefeated during the tournament, winning their first four matches by a combined score of 177-11. The team carried this momentum into their semi-final match versus Wharton.

I was watching with admiration on the pure skill and technique my teammates showcased when I heard my team captain yell, “Coach we gotta get Justin in here”. I was shocked and moved when moments later my rugby coach told me to go into the championship match. They knew my friends and family were all watching and afforded me an opportunity to participate in the victory that our skilled starters had secured. This gesture allowed me to enjoy my favourite playing memory from the tournament when I tackled a Harvard player as the last line of defense. I probably hurt myself more than the offensive player on the tackle but I gave it all I had, closed my eyes, made contact and wrapped my hands around the oncoming player and swiped the ball away. I had miraculously stopped the score and contributed to the shut-out victory with the final score 34-0!

The celebration started immediately after the whistle, with representatives from Duke University presenting my UCD team with a large trophy solidifying our quest for the college’s 10th MBA World Rugby Championship!  Since we were on an MBA friendly-budget we traded the traditional celebratory bottles of champagne with cans of America’s finest hops for our team picture but it tasted just as sweet as we basked in the moment.

The MBA is about learning not just business management but challenging yourself. Thus ends the rugby blog, if you are interested in reading detailed summaries of the games you can view my personal blog here. Best of luck to the 2013 UCD Rugby Club!

– Justin Thomas, Full-time MBA 2011/12 & MBA Rugby World Champion

Rugby Reflections Part I

This blog begins to reflect on one of my favourite memories from the MBA, the 2012 World MBA Rugby Tournament. I am humbled to offer my thoughts and perspectives from the trip as an international student at UCD Smurfit with no previous rugby experience just along for the ride. As a quick recap, this is an annual tournament hosted by Duke University for the last 30 years in Danville, Va. which attracts over 700 players representing the top business schools across the globe to compete in the prestigious rugby championship. There is a men’s tackle tournament and a separate women’s touch league.  UCD fielded both a men’s and women’s team in the 2012 tournament. Somehow I found myself on the team (see my previous blog) and the stories review the beginning of the trip while still maintaining the Rugby player credo of “what happens on the rugby tour stays on the rugby tour”.

North Carolina Arrival

The MBA had its stressful moments but I never experienced a sleepless night like the one before leaving for the rugby tournament. I recorded a brief video before the trip espousing my excitement for our rugby fundraising website, but as I collapsed in bed after packing my gear, the weight of the moment suddenly hit me like a vicious rugby tackle. I was about to travel back to the States to participate in a sport I still knew little about with teammates I hardly knew. What was I doing? Would I injure myself or worst yet embarrass the team? Throughout the year I had overcome questions around how to motivate employees, calculating required break-even units produced, and evaluating industry attractiveness; however I was left grappling with the upcoming rugby challenges.

After a restless night I woke up at 6am (local time) in Ireland and soon found myself arriving in the Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina around 5:30pm ET. I was joined with approximately 40 of my rugby teammates with bags all accounted for and everyone in good form. The excitement resonated with all the players having made the sacrifice to take time off from their studies at UCD Smurfit and participate in the 2012 MBA World Rugby tournament. However, I can confidently state that no one enjoyed being in North Carolina more than me as I was welcomed by my lovely wife and our friends from the area. As I walked off the plane I soon noticed a large “Welcome UCD Banner” held up by my friends and even a hand drawn poster from one of their 2-year-old daughters to sweeten the welcome. The scene was simply wonderful and I was delighted that my Irish teammates were exposed to Southern Hospitality so early in our adventure.

Our Greeting Party!

We then hopped in a bio-diesel powered van with our friendly driver Mark who drove us to Danville for our first team dinner. With about 40 total people on the trip it can be challenging to remember all the names and faces, but the night out allowed us all to bond and relax after a full day of travel. After stuffing myself with a plate full of ribs and sirloin steak, I smiled knowing I was back in the South sharing the moment with new teammates and friends. Now the only thing left to do was to start playing…

UCD MBA Rugby Team Lands in RDU


– Justin Thomas, Full-time MBA 2011/12

Journey to the MBA Rugby World Cup

Having just touched down in North Carolina, the beginning of this journey in September last year seems but a distant memory. Having previously played one game of rugby in my life I found myself volunteering to be President of the MBA Smurfit Rugby Football Club with the aim of getting a team to Duke University, North Carolina to defend our status as MBA Rugby World Cup Champions…and so the journey began.

Having signed up one of the largest membership numbers to date we commenced training in November with a small group that was to become the core of this years club. Enthuasiastically we set out to bring both mens and womens teams to the tournament- perhaps doing so with a bit of naïvety towards the mammoth task that lay ahead. Having spent the Christmas holidays drafting letters to potential sponsors it gradually dawned on me exactly how difficult raising the required funds was going to be to make this trip a reality. However, as a committee and through a lot of dedication, hard work and ingenuity over the next three months we managed to make what at often times had seemed impossible, a reality. Yes, our studies may have suffered as a result but the MBA is about more than what we are taught in class and organising this club is proof of just that. This trip was made possible in no small way by our most generous of sponsors and the tireless efforts of both teams in their fundraising efforts so here’s hoping everyone gets their just rewards when we bring back two World Championship trophies to Smurfit after the weekend!

– Conor Price, Full-time MBA 2011/12

Rugby Club Update – Looking forward to the MBA World Championship

The School rugby club is now one week out from flying out to defend the MBA Rugby World Championship and hopefully win it for a record 10th time. We are now on the final stretch, and last night we had the final fundraising event, in the form of a table quiz in Bective RFC. It is absolutely brilliant that the School are managing to send both a men’s and women’s team out to Duke, and there are a variety of students from across virtually all the courses in Smurfit. Both teams have been training since early January under the tuition of former Irish International, Stephen McIvor, and are now both raring to go!

Look out for the official tour programme, which will be widely available on campus next week. We have some brilliant pieces by the likes of the great Willie-John McBride, Eddie O’Sullivan on his return from coaching the USA Eagles, and ex Lions prop Paul Wallace. There are also some eye-opening player profiles that are well worth a read! A big thank you to all our programme supporters! On that note an even bigger thank you to our official partners; Tourism Ireland, Newstalk, and Crowe Horwath for making this all possible.

– John MacMahon (Men’s Captain), Full-time MBA 2011/12.

No Skills. All Heart. Dream Big.

The UCD Smurfit Rugby Football Club has grown into one of the most successful business school rugby football clubs in the world. It has won the national championship title 9 times since 2000 and is the current reigning champ. Spring semester classes were in full swing with plenty of readings and assignments, yet I found myself attending the first rugby practice of the year. How did I end up there having never played, trying to make a championship team you might ask? I blame the MBA for convincing me too well that I am a capable, equipped leader who basks in the unknown! The goal is to make the team and participate in the 2012 World Rugby Tournament in Durham, NC from April 13-15 2012. Read my humble beginnings on this journey below.

First Practice

“Where did rugby come from?” Our rugby Coach barked the question directly to me as the team huddled together after our first drill. As an American having never played rugby before I had no clue, so I quickly responded “the Irish”- but this unfortunately proved to be incorrect. I soon learned from our rugby Coach the correct answer, “It all started with William Webb Ellis who picked up the ball and ran with it in 1823 as a student at Rugby School of Warwickshire, England…” I shifted my running shoes in the wet grass as he continued the story while I frantically tried to memorize the facts for any future pop quizzes.

On the dimly lit field during this cold night of practice, my new found MBA confidence was certainly getting a healthy challenge.  Starting with being the only guy not wearing cleats, then struggling to put on the practice jersey only to discover that it was actually torn all contributed to the initial experience.

For approximately an hour and a half I ran, caught, passed, and slipped my way through my first rugby practice like a deer in headlights. What I lacked in natural skills during practice, I tried to make up with social skills by asking each player to make an official introduction to the team. I started with “I’m Justin and you may not believe it but I am new to this sport.” This managed to get some good laughs and end the practice on a positive note. This would begin the dream.

Rugby Dream

I am currently raising support along with my UCD classmates to raise enough financial support to travel abroad and represent the college in the MBA World tournament in April. You may view my website at and the official team website at I welcome your encouragements! If you can’t support us financially please support us online by Tweeting #justinsrugydream as we seek to make a lasting legacy for the 2012 UCD Smurfit Rugby team!

Rugby Player in-Training,

–  Justin Thomas, Full-time MBA 2011/12

Flip That House

Before the global recession and housing bubble burst, I used to enjoy watching a programme called “Flip that House”.  The premise of the show was to follow people through the purchase, renovation and subsequent resale of properties, hopefully at outrageous profits.  My strongest impression in this show was that most projects went way over their budgets.

At this point in the semester, that’s how I feel with my time.  Something that I anticipated costing me 2 or 3 productivity hours is actually costing 5 or 6, multiplied exponentially as I have over committed and over extended to the nth degree.  I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off – or as they more succinctly say here in Ireland, like a headless chicken – between Strategic Negotiations with one group, required courses and another group, Portuguese classes in preparation of our Emerging Markets trip, fundraising for Rugby Club, and the list goes on…

‘How did I convince myself I would have time for this? I wonder in my constant scattered distraction from one million things racing through my head at a time.  I didn’t think it would take this long is the real answer.  I am way over budget on time.  Just as in “Flip That House”, though, going over budget often is what made the house really impressive.  It’s hard to say if I will make use of everything and return on my investment, but I’m glad I went for the marble countertop and parquet flooring equivalent for the brain.

Now I guess what it all comes down to, just as in the real estate market, is ‘location, location, location’.  Having been based in developing markets for years, I had decided that a change for more developed markets would do me some good and an MBA from one of the top global programmes would be just the platform from which to make that change.  Now that I’m here in the over-saturated job market, it seems that the flexibility and language skills that brought me to live in some of the remotest corners of the planet in the past may remain my competitive advantage as companies look for flexible employees whom they can send wherever they are needed.  Luckily enough for me, unlike in the real estate market, I can pick up my investments and move them to a neighborhood where people value quality craftsmanship if need be.