It was a big year for DCU Soccer as the Collingwood Cup squad was named team of the year at the Clubs and Societies awards last week. The team’s coaches, Johnny McDonnell and Declan Roche were also recognised as they received the ‘Excellence in Coaching’ award.
The team made history in February when they became the first DCU team to win the Collingwood Cup.
The squad went into the tournament as rank outsiders. Their task was made even more difficult when they were drawn against UCD in the first round, a team that defeated them 7-1 in the league earlier that season.
“UCD are always favourites,” Johnny McDonnell said before the match. DCU’s Soccer Development Officer Fran Butler echoed McDonnell on the strength of UCD, “they are fantastic and have so many players coming through.”
But on the day DCU flipped the script.
An early goal from Sean Trimble put the Glasnevin side in front. Shortly after the break, Jack O’Connor doubled the lead with a fine solo effort. Then DCU had to weather a storm.
The pressure from UCD was constant but thanks to good defensive organisation and an inspired performance from Imrich Toth in goal, DCU held on until the final 10 minutes.
However, League of Ireland regular, Yoyo Mahdy started the UCD comeback when he finally hit the target. Then at the death, Evan Osan floated an inviting ball into the box and Colm Whelan did the rest to send the game to a penalty shootout.
DCU must’ve been very deflated after surrendering two late goals but they didn’t show it. Toth made two big saves in the shootout to give Sean Cronin the chance to win the game for DCU which he duly accepted.
DCU advanced to face the University of Limerick in the semi-final.
UL went in front at the AUL Complex, with Oleg Vyschun firing home in the 29th minute. But DCU’s resilience again shone through.
A quick-fire brace from Jack O’Connor put DCU in front before half-time. They held onto this one goal lead for almost the whole second half until two late goals from Sean Cronin and one from David Mugalu put some gloss on the scoreline. DCU emerged 5-1 victors and booked a place in their first ever Collingwood Cup final.
“With how poor we performed in the league and the draw we had in the first round of the Collingwood against UCD, I think we can be honest and say that nobody was really expecting us to be in the situation we are in, so we are delighted to be here,” Butler said.
Ulster University were the opposition in the final after they beat University College Cork in their semi-final
The final was played on a cold night at the home of Irish football, Dalymount Park. The game was the third in as many days for both teams and this took a toll. Chances for both sides were very limited.
Few clear-cut opportunities were created as neither team was willing to take any risks for fear of conceding the pivotal goal. The game ended 0-0 after extra time and penalties would decide the 100th edition of the Collingwood Cup.
Ulster faltered first, missing two strikes, while each DCU penalty taker coolly converted theirs. That left Jack O’ Connor with the chance to seal victory. O’Connor stepped forward and stroked the ball into the back of the net before wheeling away to celebrate with his teammates.
“We knew it was going to be tight, the way we played all week we didn’t deviate away from that. Ulster University are a very good team. They tried to get it down and play, but we were just strong, resilient, kept our shape all over the pitch and we just ground it out,” Johnny McDonnell concluded.