UCD AFC secured the title of champions of the SSE Airtricity League First Division last Friday evening after a 1-1 draw with visiting team Finn Harps at the UCD Bowl. UCD was maintaining a five point lead at the top of the First Division table, with their opponents in the second position.
UCD had not secured the title of First Division champions since 2009, so with the trophy just within reach, hopes were high. The College Tribune received a quote from UCD AFC manager Collie O’Neill before the crucial title decider on Friday, ‘Friday’s a huge game for us. Even though it’s first against second, we’re not treating the game any differently than we have all our other games this year. We know it’s not going to be easy. Our games against Finn Harps have been very close this year, they will be confident of securing the three points and bringing it down to the last game of the season. They’re a good footballing side, they’re on a good run but so are we, It’ll be a good contest.’
There was a large amount of accuracy to O’Neill predictions for the game. The opposing team were determined and consistent, but in the end, UCD equalised and cemented their position at the top of the leaderboard. UCD AFC will be playing in the Premier League in 2019 with Finn Harps continuing on to the promotion play offs.
Conor Davis scored the goal that ultimately sealed UCD’s victory over Waterford. It was his fifth goal in three games. Davis only joined the club at the end of July, but his remarkable scoring streak has earned him a nomination for the SWAI Soccer Writers Player of the Month for August.
UCD’s First Division triumph continues their phenomenal winning streak this season. UCD had an extraordinary triumph over Waterford FC on Friday 7th of September at the UCD Bowl. The final score was 2-1, with UCD’s stunning goals scored by Conor Davis and Timmy Malloy. Following this monumental victory, UCD have made it to the semi-finals of the Irish Daily Mail FAI cup for the first time in 11 years. O’Neill believes that with focus and faith in their skill the team can continue to ride this wave of success, ‘We played very well against Waterford in the cup last week, moved the ball quickly, and created some good chances. It’s important we focus on our own game, play the way we know we can, and if we can do that then we have every chance.’
The semi-final match pairings were drawn on Soccer Republic on September 10th. The draw sees Cork City and Dundalk avoid each other for a fourth consecutive year, while UCD will play Dundalk. The quarter final match between Derry City and Bohemians that is coming up this Wednesday 19th of September will decide which team will play Cork City in the other semi-final.
It will be a tough tie with the town, as Dundalk maintain a six-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division league and are therefore, the clear favourites to win. O’Neill and the team are well-aware that the odds are pitted against them, but they will not let it break their spirit. ‘The draw against Dundalk is a tough one. They are top of the league, and having to go there won’t be easy, but at this stage of the draw no game would be! No one will expect us to win, just like no one expected us to beat Waterford. We will be looking forward to the game and be able to go into it with the pressure off and have a free run at it, give it a go and see where that can get us.’ Stephen Kenny and the Dundalk team will host UCD on the Friday 28th of September in Oriel Park.
This is not the first time UCD’s team has made history. UCD AFC have an exemplary discipline record that allowed them to be admitted to the Europa League through the Fair Play League. Before their regulation in 2014, they were the only university football team in the continent to play in a national First Division League. UCD AFC have been known for making sporting milestones and the last few months have show a return to this form. Regardless of the media’s common lack of interest in this university team and their underdog status within the Premiere Division, there is no denying that UCD AFC are on an upward trajectory toward glory.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor