Gary O’Neill and his UCD side suffered a tough first outing on their return to the League of Ireland top tier. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

LOI Premier Division
Derry City 3
UCD AFC 0

DERRY City was always going to be a tough order for UCD on their return to the top flight, and so is transpired with a 3-0 defeat on the road on the opening day.

Collie O’Neill’s team of scholarship players were outgunned by a Candystripes side boasting Greg Sloggett, who was appointed vice-captain on leaving Belfield over the winter period.

Sloggett was a key part of the UCD said that swept away all before them in the First Division last year, and playmarker Daire O’Connor joined him in leaving for Cork City in the off-season.

The nature of UCD’s insistence on only using players registered in the college saw top scorer Georgie Kelly and Maxi Kougun leave for Dundalk and Warrenpoint Town last summer.

Drogheda native O’Neill has always rolled with the punches, however, and he’s confident ahead of the new campaign despite only adding Ireland under-19 captain Richie O’Farrell to his armoury.

“The policy within the college being scholarship-only, we only really promote from within or who has come into first year in college,” O’Neill tells the Dublin Gazette.

“We lost Daire as well. He was the one who had the little bit of magic to turned games for us. He’d be a loss to us as well.

“Bringing Richie in has a great addition. He’s very similar to Greg Sloggett – he has great energy and strength.

“He’s very good technically in the middle of the park. He captained the Irish Under-19s during the week, so he’s a really good addition to have.”

An added complication for O’Neill has been the burden placed on them by university competitions, which saw them finish later than their Premier Division peers and start earlier.

“Even though all other teams finished towards the end of October last year, our guys went up to the second or third week in November playing college league games.

“So the off-season was short, and then we were back early to do pre-season for college games. We haven’t had much of a break, so it is taxing on them.

“It is tough on them, but when you get to play on such big stages, you don’t think about those things.”

O’Neill has, at least, fought off the designs of champions Dundalk on star defender Liam Scales, who will stay on to complete his degree in the summer and play with the Students.