In his role as DCU’s Soccer Development Officer Fran Butler is tasked with one simple job – progressing soccer in DCU.
Fran is responsible for the University’s three men’s teams, one women’s team and two futsal teams, while also looking to the future and the development side of his job.
“We have three men’s team who play in the combined Colleges and Universities Football League”, Fran explained. “The senior team play in the Premier Division, the ‘B’ team play in Division 1 and the freshers play in the Division 2 league.”
“We try to keep one team exclusive to the freshers if we can. The freshers won their league last season and got promoted so that’s why we have three teams this year. The ladies have one team who play in the Premier Division.”
After the league campaign, all teams enter cup competitions. “The Collingwood Cup is the blue ribbon event for Irish colleges for our senior team. The Crowley cup for the B team while the freshers play in the Harding Cup which is an exclusive freshers cup competition.”
With the increased popularity in futsal, Fran explains how the sport is proving successful in DCU. “We have a futsal team and a ladies futsal team. We have one international futsal player, our captain Ian Byrne who is on scholarship. Last year we won our section but lost in the final to Carlow.
The quality and progress of soccer in DCU is easily seen in the pool of League of Ireland players currently on the University teams. Stephen Traynor and Kevin Feely (Bohemians), Robert Gaul and Jack Flynn (Drogheda United), Mark Logan and Ben Dale (St. Patrick’s Athletic) and John Mulroy (Bray Wanderers) are all part of the make-up of the University team this year.
With many of these playing week in week out in the LoI, it can only help the progression of the DCU teams. This talent looked to have received a new coach before the season with experienced former League of Ireland manager Brendan Place set to take charge of the top DCU teams. But after just a number of weeks in the job, place decided to call it quits, as Fran explains.
“I felt that if we were going to expand, then it couldn’t just be me coaching all the teams”, Fran said. “We advertised and Brendan was the pick of the bunch in terms of his qualification. As he was doing his pro-licence he needed to be working with players of a high quality to complete his assessments, so I said I’d give him the run of the first team because we have players on scholarship who are Airtricity League players.
“He felt he couldn’t do the work he wanted to do. So he gave up all the jobs: the university team and the Sunday team. We didn’t have a falling out, it just didn’t work out.
“When Brendan (Place) was looking after the Senior team, I said to him to use it to get ready for the Collingwood cup because he didn’t know the players. They have a tough league group with DIT, UCD, Trinity College, Tallaght IT and Colaiste Ide. We failed to make the play-offs last year to a last minute goal and missed the play-off by one point.”
“This year we’ve started training in the mornings with our elite players, three mornings a week, on campus before they go to lectures. We’ve been fortunate to get the squad into the high performance gym where Des Earls has looked after us there.”
With league campaigns continuing for a number of weeks and with cup competitions coming in the New Year, the progress of DCU soccer looks to be heading in the right direction.