University College Dublin’s (UCD’s) top football league returned after a long hiatus this weekend, as the Superleague kicked off their amended summer format with an all-new look to the tournament.
Like the €2 you sometimes find down the side of the couch, the return of the tournament has been a joyful surprise to many footballers on campus. Many a stellar Superleague career appeared to be over following the pandemic-induced cancellation in March. After years of trying for some, the postponement was immensely frustrating for those teams on the cusp of glory in their respective divisions. However, all is not lost. This new summer format follows a European style, which will see the top two teams in each group fight for the inaugural “Champions League” trophy, with the bottom two competing for “Europa League” honours.
One of the sides hoping to make amends for the abandoned season is Hop House 11. Famed for having the best jerseys in Superleague, Hop House were one of those teams on the edge of glory in March. Written off as an ageing squad before the season started, they have confounded even their harshest critics this season. The Whites are yet to play in this new format, but if they do pick up where they left off, with star player Dan Keegan leading the charge, then some swashbuckling performances surely await the onlooking subs (like the Premier League, no crowds allowed unfortunately).
The team that stole the limelight this week, however, was undoubtedly PSGee. They have chalked up two wins already, both against the same opposition and by the scoreline of 4-2 on both occasions. They can be an inconsistent side, but with their best eleven on the pitch they are a force to be reckoned with and will be a team most will be hoping to avoid.
PSGee appear to have improved once again following the break, none more so than their talisman Charlie McCarthy: the Nicolas Pépé of the team. Having reportedly worked very hard on his fitness during the lockdown and grown a mullet, McCarthy was simply too hot to handle for Pedborough. There were hat-tricks for Tom Donnellan and Charlie Barrett in each game respectively. However, with Donnellan on holiday for the next couple of weeks, their chances may suffer.
One of the best teams to grace the Superleague in recent years, St Ketienne were also back in action this week, running out 5-3 winners against Shelbyville Lemon Trees. Rob Young bagged himself a hat-trick, but is keeping his feet firmly on the ground. “We’re just keeping the head down, taking each game at a time. We know these next few weeks will be a grind, but we’ll get through it”, said Young.
Having clocked up hundreds of kilometres between them during an impressive charity lockdown initiative, St Ketienne certainly won’t be found wanting in the fitness department over the next few weeks. What could inhibit them though is the fact that a large contingent of the squad are currently in Portugal; however Young is confident that the depth of his team’s squad will be sufficient to overcome such an obstacle.
Fajazzle FC were also among the more impressive performers of the week. With their defensive parsimony a proverbial constant all season, David O’Meara marshalled his back four with particular aplomb this time out. In the end, the Skyblues ran out 2-0 winners against a strong Los Nines 2:0 side, who will certainly like their chances of a deep run this August. Indeed, with a win against the all-conquering St Ketienne before the break, they will fear nobody. The potent attacking triumvirate of David Flood, Will Fay and James Comaskey were a menacing threat throughout.
One week down, the games come thick and fast now, with teams playing at least twice a week from here on in. As such, player fitness (mostly non-existent) will come into the equation like never before.
Early Contenders: PSGee, St Ketienne, Hop House 11
Darkhorses: Fajazzle FC, Los Nines 2:0, Jong Futbolito
Room To Improve: Pedborough FC, Expected Toulouse
Neil Stokes – Sports Reporter