The DCU players, at this stage, must be well accustomed to being referred to as underdogs. Much like against IT Letterkenny three weeks ago and UCD all the way back in October, there are very few outside of their own camp giving them a snowball’s chance of beating IT Carlow this afternoon at Home Farm FC, Whitehall.
Yet, here they are, on the precipice of a CUFL Premier League final, enjoying a record breaking season, with only a single tick in the loss column, ready to take on the champions. That said, it doesn’t take a statistical boffin to see that DCU are really up against it.
In defence of their title Carlow have been simply rampant; they have won all six of their games, scoring 25 goals and conceding only three. They have averaged four goals a game this season, and only WIT and UCC have mustered some semblance of a challenge, losing 2-1 and 1-0 respectively.
There are two ways of considering this data, the first is less than savoury; this a settled, grisly team laying waste to all in their path en route to retaining what is rightfully theirs. Conversely, it could be perceived as a good side that have yet to have their mettle tested, playing opposition beaten long before kick-off, by the thoughts of facing them.
DCU play with a collective tenacity when behind the ball that bottlenecks passing channels. Those in possession are consistently confronted by two players and tend to be stifled by measured aggression. This is compounded by the fact that this pressure can be sustained for 90 minutes due to the prevailing fitness within the squad. Carlow will be made to work for every inch and could well be facing a potential bugbear.
The DCU squad is largely in fine fettle; David Gaul has been cleared to play after an ankle injury sustained in November recurred against Letterkenny, while the head injury which befell Philip O’Driscoll in the same game will have to be monitored until the 11th hour. Training sessions have gone well over the last fortnight and Declan Roche is confident his side can front up.
“We’re very much the outsiders and there’s people writing us off already. The players have to be very confident in how they approach things and not be overawed. People are always talking about Carlow, but this is a one-off game, one away from the final, and I don’t expect the players to leave anything behind,” he said.
The annals of team sports are brimming with David versus Goliath stories, and, as Peter Pan said, “Nothing is impossible if you wish hard enough.”
All winning streaks end, why not today?