Dublin City University 8
Royal College of Surgeons 0
Collingwood Cup first round
Dublin City University 3
NUI Galway 2
Collingwood Cup quarter-final
Dublin City University 1
University College Cork 2
Collingwood Cup semi-final
A year of unprecedented success for senior football in DCU ultimately ended in disappointment with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of University College Cork in the Collingwood Cup semi-final, but manager Declan Roche remains proud of the programme’s achievements this season.
“It was a great achievement for us to win the Harding Cup, play five games in twelve days and then reach the semi-final of the Collingwood Cup.
Following the success of the freshers team in the Harding Cup, Roche admits that he had to make a lot of changes to the team to face the Royal College of Surgeons two days later.
The fresh-faced Northside team wasn’t phased, though, as they put eight past the St. Stephen’s Green outfit without reply to advance to the quarter-final.
It was there that DCU faced NUI Galway. It looked as though one goal would be enough to progress to the final four, but a last minute equaliser by the Tribesmen sent the game into extra time.
In the additional period, the westerners took the lead, only to be pegged back and finally put to bed by the Dubliners to avoid a penalty shootout.
In the semi-final, DCU had a chance to avenge their CUFL Premier Division semi-final defeat against University College Cork. They looked as if they would do so when Rory Feely gave them the lead, but a brace from Daniel Pender booked the Corkonians’ place in the final, and they would go on to win the cup.
“The demands placed on the team were really high,” Roche claimed, in relation to fixture congestion.
“Too high, in fact.
“But we were really delighted to achieve what we did. Even on the day (against UCC) we played really well.
“I think we were a bit unlucky. We missed some chances near the end but that’s just how it went, as it does in football.”
“I would also say that Cork probably have a wee bit more experience at the moment. They’re a club team, they play together every week.
“They got to the Premier Division final which they lost to UCD, but bounced back to win the Collingwood final.
“For us to match them all the way on two separate occasions is a huge achievement for us and it’s something we’ll look to as we try to improve.”
Roche has received widespread praise in college football circles this season, but the former Shelbourne striker modestly attributes his team’s success to the dedication of Soccer Development Officer Fran Butler.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work but Fran in particular deserves a lot of credit.
“He’s been the cornerstone of everything we’ve done. He’s given me the freedom to just get on with my work while giving us huge support.
“Pretty much anything we’ve wanted to achieve, he has organised it in the background.
“There’s no doubt about how much Fran has done for soccer in DCU.
Despite his elation at how this season has progressed, Declan admits that players at UCC, UCD and Maynooth University’s experience of playing together as a club every week gives them an advantage over his own team.
“It’s always going to be difficult when you’re competing against UCD and Maynooth, and indeed Cork. They have different structures regarding how they recruit their players.
“For instance, they all have club teams that play in regular leagues. So the players are playing together every week.
“We don’t have that structure here. All of our players play at outside clubs.
“That means we’ve had to do things slightly differently. To the players’ credit, they’ve put in the extra work that was required by training early in the morning and things like that.
“We’re very proud of this year’s Harding group and now the Collingwood group because what we’ve achieved is magnificent.”
On a closing note for the 2016/17 season, Roche thanked a number of officials who have facilitated the football programme’s constant improvement.
“We’ve received a lot of support from Ross Munnelly who came in as Sports Development Officer. I’d also like to give a mention to Michael Kennedy, Ken Robinson and the President Brian Mac Craith.
“They were all very supportive. They were at the Harding final and the semi-final of the Collingwood Cup. They can all see the effort that’s been put in and what we’re trying to do.”
Declan added that he firmly believes DCU now boasts “one of the top four teams” in college football in Ireland. The huge strides taken by the programme over the last number of years is a credit to Declan Roche, Fran Butler and everybody involved with football at the University.
DCU team v UCC: Lee Doyle; Karl Melling, Gavan Kearney, Chris McMenamin, Craig Dowling; Rory Feely, Luke Kelly, Jamie Lennon, Jack O’Connor; Ross Tannehy, Alan O’Sullivan.
Image credit: Fran Butler