UCD Newman Fellow Dr David Doolin launched his book A History of Rugby in Leinster at Dublin’s RDS.
Dr David Doolin was awarded the Kevin Brabazon Newman Fellowship in History of Rugby in Leinster back in March 2020.
Despite the massive impact of a global pandemic which limited his access to archives, David managed to pivot his project with the help of the family of the late Des Daly, Honorary Leinster Rugby Statistician, who meticulously kept his own rugby records.
David said: “My official start date as a Newman Fellow was the 2nd of March 2020. Exactly 10 days later, on the 12th of March we went into lockdown.
“With the Covid pandemic, all of my best laid plans went out the window. All of the archives were shut down, all of my plans to visit the clubs in Leinster and talk to people one to one, it all went out the window.
“We had to pivot, and thanks to the Fellowship I was able to do that. I was very lucky, with the help of Paul Rouse in particular, to find private archives which I could put into my car and drive home to my house and that’s where the work was allowed to stay on track.
“I owe a huge thanks to Helen Daly and the Daly family. Helen allowed me to come to her house and take boxes and boxes of material from the late Des Daly. I never met the man but I know how passionate he was about rugby – he lived and breathed rugby. I can’t thank the Daly family enough for keeping this project on the road. It wouldn’t have been possible without Des’s archive.”
The pride was palpable at the formal book launch in the RDS as David’s three years of gruelling research came to fruition in the form of his hardback, A History of Rugby in Leinster.
Former Leinster captain Fiona Coghlan and current Leinster head coach Leo Cullen were also in attendance on the night as special guests.
The publication takes a deep dive into rugby in Leinster since before the foundation of Leinster Rugby in 1879.
The book is the first of its kind to compile Leinster Rugby’s rich history, from its foundation, through the amateur years, to the club’s many spectacular championships in the twenty-first century, when the national love for rugby kicked up a gear.
David said: “I’m hoping rugby fans old and new will find something unique in the story. It’s an academic study; it was peer-reviewed by fellow historians which I’m quite proud to point out.
“It’s a very big history so I’m hoping the narrative I’ve created from the archives will be of interest to the rugby experts. I hope I found something new for them.
“But for people that are quite new to rugby, I think they’ll learn quite a lot and understand the evolution of the game from the first club in Ireland in 1854 to the powerhouse that Leinster Rugby is today.”
David expressed his gratitude to David Brabazon, who funded his Fellowship, to his supervisor Associate Professor Paul Rouse and to the Newman Fellowship Programme as a whole.
He said: “The Newman Fellowship experience was brilliant for me. It was an important step in my career as an academic. It came at a great time for me as well. For context, I had been away for a long time and had returned to Ireland to teach at third level. The Fellowship was really important for me to get back into the Irish third-level system.
“My Fellowship happened at the same time as the Covid-19 pandemic which made it even more important for my career at that stage. As things started to shut down, the Newman Fellowship was something of a lifesaver.
“I am delighted that all the research has culminated in the launch of a book, produced in conjunction with Merrion Press.”
David Doolin was supervised by Associate Professor Paul Rouse in UCD School of History. The Kevin Brabazon Newman Fellowship in the History of Rugby in Leinster was kindly supported by David Brabazon.
A History of Rugby in Leinster is available to purchase at www.irishacademicpress.ie/product/a-history-of-rugby-in-leinster/