Dublin City University football manager Declan Roche spoke to The College View this week about his side’s disappointment in the Collingwood Cup last season, Alan O’Sullivan’s success on numerous fronts and his desire to see colleges link up with League of Ireland clubs.
At the time of writing, Roche was preparing for his team’s CUFL quarter-final against Limerick Institute of Technology, a game the Dublin team lost 2-1 in cruel fashion thanks to Kealon O’Gorman’s 92nd minute winner.
“These are the type of game we want to be in. Over the last number of years we’ve contested many semi-finals and finals so it’s just a case of progressing every year”, said Roche of the importance of Wednesday’s game in Nenagh.
DCU’s CUFL Premier Division team has availed of the services of Shelbourne’s Alan O’Sullivan since he began studying at DCU last year, and Roche insists that O’Sullivan’s commitments to his club and country don’t get in the way of his college football.
“You mentioned Alan as an example, and he’s the type of person who makes himself available all the time. He very seldom misses sessions and he’s never late. He’s a hard-working player who’s always there.
“Unfortunately that’s not always the case and there have been occasions when players haven’t been available due to academic or club commitments but I have to stress that it’s not their fault, it’s just the way it is. I have a very good relationship with all club managers, from the AUL to the League of Ireland. We try to get the balance right but at the end of the day, the number one priority is the player,” said Roche.
As is the case across the world, football is part of the foundation of working class culture in Dublin. The downside of that, however, is that universities have an inherent disadvantage with regard to recruiting players, as talented teenagers may not have access to university.
“The fundamental thing from our perspective is that there’s very little we can say to these kids unless they actually get into DCU. Fran (Butler, head of DCU Soccer) travels to certain second-level institutions and holds workshops but ultimately the student would have to meet the academic requirements.
“We have a different model to many of the Institutes of Technology, for instance. Carlow IT or places like that have been very successful because they’ve been able to recruit the very best players at Leaving Certificate level who fall outside the University’s catchment area.
“We’re very lucky with the players we have now. We have some top players and it’s even better that they’ve been able to come through the academic pathway to get here”, said Roche.
Roche, who plied his trade with Shelbourne and Cork City as a player, claims he has great admiration for the GAA and how it is run in comparison to football.
“Countrywide, the GAA always seems to have a foot march on us (the FAI). They always seem to be that little bit ahead of us with what they can offer facilities-wise and organisation-wise.
“I wouldn’t call it a battle but I’ve come across a number of dual-players who are exceptionally talented at both codes. Unfortunately for us, the GAA can normally offer more than what we can.”
When asked if he’d like to see League of Ireland clubs linking up with local universities, Shelbourne and DCU for example, Declan gave a direct answer: “Yes. Most definitely.”
“We’ve had a number of League of Ireland players working with us over the last number of years and each of them has commended the facilities available on campus. They have access to a gym seven days a week, access to doctors and medics and anything else they need to help them in their careers.
“I find it strange that local League of Ireland clubs haven’t used our facilities, especially from a sports science point of view. I know Cork City have linked in with UCC. I spoke to John Caulfield (current Cork City and former UCC manager) about that and he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I do believe that the facilities at third-level should be a way for the top clubs to link in with universities.”
Finally, Declan wished to congratulate the DCU women’s football team on reaching the varsities finals.
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