Tomorrow night in Cooke Park, the home of Tolka Rovers FC, the curtain will close on a historic
season for DCU. Having advanced further than ever before in both the league and the Collingwood
Cup-by beating a string of heavily favoured opposition-this squad has reset the bar of expectation
for DCU soccer and, opened a new chapter in the club’s history.
This chapter, of course, will read the all the more better with the inclusion of silverware; the
consensus within the squad as the season has matured, is that all of their progress will be in vain,
without an addition to the trophy cabinet. Only DIT, who represents the sole loss of their league
campaign, stands between DCU and a storybook ending.
When the two sides met in the final game of the Premier Division East in November, DIT came
out deserving 3-0 winners. However, there were mitigating factors; in the absence of Mark Logan,
Declan Roche was forced to start an untested back four, and the pitch in Grangegorman resembled
an intermediate ski-slope- playing no small part in DIT scoring twice from set-pieces in the opening
six minutes, effectively killing the game.
This proved a steep learning curve for DCU, forcing them to address some underlying weaknesses,
and until the loss to UCC in the Collingwood semi -final a fortnight ago, they had remained unbeaten
since then, conceding only three goals in four games.
Since the Collingwood Cup the players have returned to their clubs and taken some light training
with Declan Roche and John Russell, ahead of tomorrow. Mainly, they have convalesced after the
gruelling schedule in UUJ, which the semi-final against Carlow, preceded by only five days. The
squad has been given a clean bill of health and, captain, Robbie Gaul, has been cleared to play after
recovering from an ankle injury.
Gaul should partner Gavin Mc Cardle in the heart of the defence, and Mark Logan is expected
to resume in his favoured position of right full, with the industrious David Gaul completing
the quadrant. Top-scorer Michael Isichei also returns, having been ineligible for selection for
the Collingwood. This will give Declan Roche a welcome selection headache; David Lodola was
outstanding in Isichei’s absence, and was partnered admirably by both Daniel Aherne and Daniel
En route to this stage DIT defeated Belfast Metropolitan College and last year’s finalists, Athlone IT,
in the quarter and semi-final respectively. They were knocked out of the Umbro Colleges Cup in the
second round by Belfast Metropolitan on February 7th, and played their last competitive game five
days later in the aforementioned semi-final win against Athlone. So, while more rested than DCU,
they will be without the same kind of cohesion that a concentrated run of games can bring.
If this season has thought us anything about this DCU squad it’s that assumptions, predictions or
any kind of clairvoyance is pointless. One thing is for sure; it won’t be boring. Once more unto the
breach, and all that.