Amidst the celebrations, Killian Woods caught up with UCD players and management to discuss their league victory and promotion
This time last year, UCD were the Premier Division’s bottom team and a side in disarray. Now, the college team sit atop of the First Division table with a league winners’ trophy and guaranteed promotion back to the Premier Division.
Following the champagne and presentation of the trophy, the First Division champions chatted and shared memories of the season with the fans on the pitch, whilst posing for photos to cherish the moment.
Speaking to The University Observer after the match, UCD’s captain and playmaker Ronan Finn wasn’t letting the night’s defeat detract from the occasion. “It’s great; we knew it was coming, obviously winning the league before the game. The result takes some of the shine off it, but it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.”
The celebrations would be a perfect send-off for the inspirational captain, should he decide not to renew his contract with the College, though the midfielder’s statement that “if I can stay, I’ll stay,” can only be positive news.
Forward David McMillan shared Finn’s assessment of the team’s rise back to Premier Division football. “It’s been a long hard season… disappointed about tonight, but at the end of the day it’s about the season, and overall I’m absolutely delighted.”
Unlike the uncertainty surrounding Finn’s future with the college side, there is little doubt of where McMillan plans to spend 2010: “I’ve got another year on my scholarship, so [I’m] looking forward to next year.” UCD’s top marksman with 14 league goals, Ciarán Kilduff, will also be staying with UCD for another year.
The achievement of this young UCD side should be acknowledged for the mean feat it is: a core of experienced players left the squad after relegation last year, leaving an adolescent squad to cope with the vigour of Ireland’s second flight. The achievement is made all the sweeter being the first season at the helm for Martin Russell, who stepped in after Pete Mahon departed for greener pastures.
Assistant manager Diarmuid McNally stressed the difficulty of UCD’s task in gaining promotion: “To break into the top four would have been an achievement. The likes of Sporting Fingal, Shelbourne and Waterford would have been rightly favourites, considering their budgets and squads.”
Looking forward, McNally declared himself “hopeful of keeping the squad together. The bulk of the team is made up of scholarships, who give the squad a strong college base and they are tied up for two or three years… while it is unlikely that we will see any new players coming in.”
And what of the promotion playoff, where Shelbourne and Sporting Fingal will square off to see who might join the students? “I’d fancy Fingal,” said McNally. “Out of all the teams in the playoff, they are the team with momentum and form”.
The jubilant feeling around the UCD camp is a complete contrast to the depression of last year’s campaign. Let us hope the team can sustain their success, and retain their place in the Premier Division next year.