Leahy looks back at UCD AFC’s mixed season
sovaldi sale Arial, sales sans-serif;”>see serif;”>Jonny Baxter speaks to the Students’ captain Mick Leahy at the end of a long year
As UCD students approach the half way point of the semester, their representatives on the football pitch have come to the end of their season. It’s been a strange campaign for the Students: after a poor opening to the season, they won 22 points from a possible 33 in their last 11 games, form equal with that of league leaders Sligo Rovers.
For defender, captain, and recently anointed Player of the Year Mick Leahy, the below-par start to the season was partly due to a poor conversion rate in front of goal. Speaking to the Tribune in the wake of the team’s close 2-1 defeat away to Shamrock Rovers, he said that the team had been “creating a good few chances, we just weren’t finishing them”.
He also felt the trajectory of their position in the league was in some way correlated with the time it took for the younger players to settle into the team. Leahy claimed that “there was probably a small bit of a belief thing” with younger players being introduced to the team taking some time to adapt to the higher expectations of playing in the Airtricity League. According to the captain, this was not a question of talent but rather experience.
“[There are] a lot of young players in the team … and once they get a bit of experience and play a few games they kind of realise they can play at that level, and they’re good enough to play at that level, so then they get more confidence and they express themselves better and better.”
The summer saw the return of David McMillan, who left to play for St. Patrick’s Athletic during the 2011 season and whose finishing turned draws and losses into wins. “Dave coming back definitely helped,” said Leahy. McMillan contributed “a good few goals” for the Students, which the captain cites as one of their early-season issues, and helped to shift them from the bottom of the table.
With just one game to go the team now sits in ninth position, well clear of the relegation zone and, while it can be considered a successful season, for their captain it’s the least they expect.
“We perhaps slightly underachieved this year with the squad we had; I think we could have definitely been top six anyway.”
Along with the primary goal of staying up, a league finish more in line with Leahy’s expectations will be the secondary target in the coming season for UCD. However, with the campaign approaching its end, the club now faces its annual battle to keep the squad intact.
According to Leahy, although there are “some good young players coming through”, the team’s position in the league next season will also depend on “how many of the experienced guys [the club] can keep.”
One player UCD failed to hold onto was midfielder Paul Corry, who left for Sheffield Wednesday at the end of August. Asked why students should turn out in person to support his team, Leahy cited Corry’s recent move as an example of the talent among the UCD squad, saying that a trip to the Bowl was an opportunity to see “some of the best young players in the country.”
Youth is something particularly prevalent in the UCD set-up. Only four players are older than Leahy, who is just 23. A significant reason for this is the scholarship system which many players, including the captain himself, have availed of. Indeed, perhaps none more so than the centre-back who is now onto a second masters in business after already completing one in law.
Maybe that’s why he can afford to be somewhat light-hearted about his future. Asked which team he would like to go to if he had the opportunity to follow Corry to England, he responds: “Anyone who takes me.”
Leahy is fortunate that his future is not dependent on making it as a professional footballer, should that not turn out to be the case. For many of his peers the combination of education and football is simply not possible and this is something that he appears to appreciate. “The good thing about UCD, and the way I’ve done it, is [that] while I’ve been playing football I’ve been improving my education [so that I] have options when I finish”.
These are options that may have to be looked at eventually, but the UCD captain is hopeful it won’t be any time soon. While much of Leahy’s life is spent on the football pitch, it’s a situation he welcomes and one he is looking to maintain for “as long as possible.”