‘I can’t ask any more of the players’ – Declan Roche commends squad commitment after Collingwood Cup semi-final exit

Alex Dunne

DCU's Jamie Lennon wins the ball back during their 5-1 quarter-final victory over Ulster University. Credit: Third Level Football/Twitter

DCU Soccer manager Declan Roche was full of praise for his players after falling to eventual winners UCD in the Collingwood Cup semi-finals. 

Roche’s side started brightly in the annual college football showcase, held this year at Queen’s University in Belfast, by thrashing Ulster University 5-1 in their quarter-final clash on Monday, February 5th thanks to goals from Alan O’Sullivan, Rory Feely, Jamie Lennon, and two from Jack O’Connor.

They held firm the following day against the hot favourites for 62 minutes before a controversial second half goal from Liam Scales and a Georgie Kelly strike soon after put paid to their efforts.

“The players were excellent,” Roche said.

“They put in a great performance. We played really well.

“We were playing against UCD – they are the favourites, and it was a very tight game. It could have went either way, we missed two or three really good chances to go one up. The first goal was so crucial in the game. UCD got it, it was a bit controversial but they got it and went on to win.

“The first goal was from a corner, and our centre-half was clearly pushed but the referee didn’t see it. They put in the cross and nodded it in, all our players were adamant and very disappointed the ref didn’t give a foul.

“But there was no dropping of heads, the players kept going, UCD got their second goal later but they kept going as you should if a controversial decision goes against you.”

Speaking after the game, Roche was quick to give over all the credit to the squad, especially with the demanding schedule many are forced to undertake around this time of year with work, college, and pre-season training for the Airtricity League season.

Several DCU stars, including Lennon, Feely, and Tristan Noack Hoffman, will ply their trade in the top two divisions of Irish football this season, which gets going on February 16th, while many others also play in the demanding Leinster Senior League – arguably the most competitive football league in the country.

With training and friendlies in full swing, as well as the LSL running a winter season, players can be left stuck between the two – one area where UCD possess a noted advantage, with many of their team playing for UCD AFC in the League of Ireland First Division – but Roche has applauded his charges’ efforts.

“I can’t ask any more of the players,” he said.

“With the demands on them and the effort they make – they’re all aligned to other clubs and you’re doing your best and they’re doing their best, but it’s difficult to try to get everyone together and try get it going.

“UCD have a different model, they’re in the final again and the likes of them and UCC have total control over their players.

“But overall we’re in the top four of the colleges and universities again, we’re in a Premier Division semi-final next Tuesday, so hopefully we can do what we do in the semi-final. The players have been fantastic, they represent DCU very well and we’re just trying to get there – and we’ll get there one day.”

The focus for the senior football side now shifts to a rematch with UCD in the Premier Division semi-final in Belfield, and Roche wants to ensure he’s travelling south of the Liffey with a full compliment, just as the university did going up to Queen’s.

“The first thing for me is to try and have all of our players available,” he said.

“The Airtricity League season starts next weekend, that’s the big thing from my point of view – have all the players available.

“We’ve beaten [UCD] in the league this year in Belfield, so if we have them all there we’ll give it a right go.”

Alex Dunne

Image Credit: Third Level Football/Twitter