The essay provides a fresh assessment of the foundational decades of the Irish college in Rome in the seventeenth century. Drawing on seminary sources and on other Roman archives, it identifies the difficulties faced by the college as it struggled to establish itself as an effective institution for missionary training. In particular the essay highlights the nascent institution’s structural problems, particularly the lack of adequate financial resources and grave indiscipline among the student body. Further complicating the picture were the strategic discontinuities and contradictions between alternating Irish and Italian management regimes in the college. Faced with these challenges the Irish college in Rome struggled to survive.