Alas, it was not to be. DCU’s ambition of capping off their most successful season to date with the addition of silverware, remained unfulfilled on a bitterly cold night in Frank Cooke Park.
The pain of this defeat, a second to DIT this season in which they lost by an aggregate of 5-0, will made be all the more acute by the knowledge that they are the superior footballing side.
Credit must go to DIT for being ruthless with chances that came their way, as well as being well-drilled defensively, but in terms of skill and guile, the two sides are incomparable.
Although DCU were more potent offensively in the second half than in the first, Rory Dunleavy’s dismissal was mitigating to the outcome. As the game wore on the level of work that was required to compensate for the numerical advantage DIT enjoyed, slowly caught up to DCU, which was compounded by their inability to establish a lead to sit back on.
Thus, DCU were forced to chase the game, leaving them exposed to counter attacks, one of which led to Aaron O’ Dwyer’s opener.
Even if Declan Roche’s side had managed to level the tie and take it to extra time, which would have been a just reward for largely outplaying DIT, it most likely would have proven too big an ask after playing over 50 minutes a man down.
In the end, Sam Simpson’s speculative effort that crept in after an uncharacteristic error from Ben Dale, was enough to secure the win, despite DIT having at no stage controlled proceedings.
For the likes of Stephen Traynor, Ben Dale, Mark Logan and David Lodola, who may have played their last game for DCU, depending on their academic futures, this was a lost chance to go out on a high note, as well as some tangible validation for their stellar service to the club.
If this was to be their final curtain call, they should take solace in the knowledge that they have laid the groundwork for those that succeed them to take DCU soccer to the next level.
In that regard, the future looks bright; Darren Craven, Daniel Aherne, Connor Ralph, David Brick and Dylan Dolan, all of whom were members of the fresher team which won the Harding Cup Plate last month, were also indispensable squad members in the senior side’s league and cup campaigns.
They will return next season as more experienced players, who have only known success in DCU colours, ready to take up the mantle left behind by Traynor et al.
Moreover, captain and player of the season, Robbie Gaul, his brother David, Rory Dunleavy, Daniel Mahon and Michael Isichei, among others, will be back, and ready to ensure this season was not a one off.
Such is the fleeting nature of college sports; teams can lose their spine in the blink of an eye and spend years rebuilding. Fortunately, this squad will not have to confront this harsh reality in the foreseeable future.
Immense credit must be given to Declan Roche and John Russell, who took over a team that many felt were bound for relegation this season, and that bookmakers only gave 7/1 odds on in the Collingwood Cup, instead, they led their players to a semi-final and a final, in only their first season in charge.
Soccer Development Officer, Fran Butler, also deserves a tremendous amount of praise; his overall leadership, effort and commitment to DCU soccer is truly outstanding.