The DCU soccer team enter unchartered territory tomorrow when they travel to IT Letterkenny, for their first ever CUFL quarter-final. Led by the new management team of Declan Roche and his assistant John Russell, DCU have reached this juncture qualifying from the Premier Division East in second place, winning four from five of their group fixtures.
A win tomorrow would only serve to further highlight the rapid improvements within a squad that has, unfortunately, under-performed over the last the couple of seasons.
Aside from the unsavoury four hour journey by coach to Letterkenny, Robbie Gaul and his team should, at the very least, be optimistic about their chances against the Premier Division North’s top seeds. With the exception of the loss to DIT in the last group game, this season DCU have overcome adversity-some of which was self-inflicted-and found a way to win, at times through sheer will, as was the case away to IT Blanchardstown.
The squad has been training twice a week since the beginning of the month and is reporting no omissions, allowing Declan Roche to pick from a full quotient; David Gaul has been passed fit for selection, recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in November, and Mark Logan is also available after serving a two-match suspension.
Moreover, the group has been bolstered by the addition of defender Gavin McArdle and winger Philip Kavanagh, both of whom are veterans of previous campaigns and were unavailable for selection in the group phase. Midfielder Darren Craven has also been promoted from the fresher team, compounding Declan Roche’s-no doubt-welcome selection headache.
Besides playing at home, the only obvious advantage IT Letterkenny will enjoy tomorrow is experience; they reached the semi-final last year, and should be undaunted by the weight of the fixture. However, the weather forecast for Donegal tomorrow is dry and windy, which will suit DCU’s compact passing game. Thus, if they can be more frugal when in possession, and sustain 90 minutes of concentration there is no reason why history cannot be re-written for a second time.
Kick-off is at 3pm.