James Woods, left, and Trinity captain Dylan Connolly with the Harding Cup Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Dublin University AFC captain Dylan Connolly, right, and James Woods, left, with the trophy following their side's victory during the IUFU Harding Cup match between University College Cork and Dublin University AFC at Tolka Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Pearse Street native James Woods is targeting an extended run in the Shelbourne team after scoring a dream winner in the Harding Cup final for Trinity College at Tolka Park last week.

The Dublin University team won the trophy – which is confined to university freshers – for the first time in 21 years thanks to Woods’ strike in first-half stoppage time.

It was the 19-year-old’s first appearance in the competition having missed the first two days due to his involvement with Shels’ first team squad as they kicked off their season with a defeat to UCD.

“When I heard it was going to be in Tolka, obviously it was a bit of an added incentive,” Woods told Dublin Gazette.

“I was hoping I could get off to a good start in the stadium because I haven’t played a competitive fixture there yet. It was a dream it being in Tolka and scoring the winner was the icing on the cake.”

Woods spent the 2017 season with Dundalk’s Under-19s, stepping up to the senior team as they reached the Leinster Senior Cup final – which they lost, fittingly, to Shelbourne at Oriel Park.

The versatile defender made a couple of appearances on the bench at the tail end of the Lilywhites’ league campaign but, after speaking to manager Stephen Kenny, decided to seek game-time.

That came with the offer of First Division football with the Reds, who will look to mount a promotion challenge on a modest budget with a young and talented squad.

“With Dundalk, obviously they’re a full-time team. And being in college, and I’m from Dublin, so it’s a long way up to Dundalk every day for training.

“It did make more sense to play football in Dublin. I was onto Stephen Kenny and he made that point as well. When the option to go to Shels came about, it made a lot sense really.

“There’s probably more chance of playing than if I was with at Dundalk at the top of the Premier Division and Europe.

“With Shels, we’re going for promotion and I’m hoping I can progress a bit more there than I would’ve been able to do with Dundalk.”

Woods, who is in the first year of a BESS – business, economics and social sciences -degree at Trinity, has another link to the Drumcondra club – his dad Ian spent a season there in 1988/89.

“My dad played a lot in the League of Ireland. I wasn’t really sure but then when I signed I was told he played and scored a few goals.

“A few people at the club did know that and they knew my name when I was coming in.”