A problem that has hindered the growth of football in Ireland since the foundation of the state is the lack of media attention and public funding it receives in comparison to Gaelic games, despite being the largest participant sport in Ireland.
DCU is no different in this regard. In 2014-15, GAA was allocated €80,340 in Club Life Committee grants, while men’s football was only allocated €25,694. However, Soccer Development Officer Fran Butler asserts he is happy that football’s influence in DCU has continued to strengthen.
“The way I look at it is, football in the university is getting stronger all the time but (the gap in coverage) is reflective of football in Ireland as a whole. There’s very little coverage given to First Division games in the Airtricity League. The Premier Division gets most of the coverage and even that pales in comparison to what the GAA gets.
“The only football team in Ireland that gets any significant attention is the national team, everyone else is playing second fiddle to the GAA and the rugby. So if you’re going down a sliding scale, where does Third Level Football sit?
“I think that’s the reality of the way football is in this country but from our point of view we’re happy that the resources have been increased each year we’ve been here and we hope that continues.”
DCU’s senior men’s team crashed out of the Collingwood Cup at the quarter-final stage last term thanks to a concession against Trinity College in the final minute of play, despite dominating the previous 89.
In the aftermath of that defeat, Butler praised his team for once again playing attacking, attractive football but acknowledged that playing surfaces around the country in January and February “might not be conducive to the type of game we like to play.”
Butler and manager Declan Roche have recognised the need to be tighter defensively and Butler mentioned that it was a factor in how this year’s squad was put together.
“I’m glad that we have Gavan Kearney and Jack Blake who both played for the third level national team last year – they’re our centre back pairing.
“They were involved in our Collingwood campaign last year but now they’re another year bigger and stronger so we’re hoping they can be the bedrock of our squad.”
The senior team’s defensive shortcomings will be helped by the infusion of talent from last season’s freshers team, who finished as runners-up in the Harding Cup having made it to their first ever final.
“One thing about our freshers team from last year is that they may not have played the best football but they were air-tight, really solid. That’s something all of our teams have lacked over the last few years.
“That team had a really good back four with a goalkeeper in Ben Kelly who plays for Dundalk behind them.
“We have a couple of good central midfielders too who maybe aren’t so pleasing on the eye in terms of what they do on the ball but they’ll sit in, do their jobs and protect the back four.”
Since Declan Roche’s appointment, DCU have been known for their creative flair and prowess up front, boasting numerous League of Ireland players including Alan O’Sullivan and Luke Kelly.
“I think this year we have a lot more defensive-minded players. In the past we had a lot of creative players and strikers doing the business but now it’s swayed.
“We’re a lot stronger defensively so we just hope we can be a lot stronger as a unit and that bit of steel can get us across the line.”
The 2016-17 Colleges and Universities Football League (CUFL) was launched in Abbotstown on Wednesday, September 22nd and Fran and his team will be hoping DCU can challenge for league and cup honours come the end of the season.
Image credit: Laura Horan