UCD’s higher learning

by Karl Graham
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UCD ensured they will head into their opening game of the new First Division season on Friday on a high, after they battled to a 2-0 win over Drogheda United in the fourth round of the Leinster senior cup at the Belfield Bowl.
A second half penalty from new signing Cian Kavanagh was followed up by a Liam Scales strike six minutes later to see them safely into the quarter-finals.
The Students have added youth to their side during the off season as they look to move on from Pat Devlin’s move to take over at Cabinteely FC whom they meet on Friday in their League of Ireland first division opener.
Evan Osam, Ben Hanrahan and Yousef ‘Yoyo’ Mahdy join Kavanagh as new signings at UCD with Conor Kearns, Sean Byrne, Gareth Coughlan, Conor Crowley, and Simon Power making the move from the College’s league winning Under-19s side, and Evan Farrell, Neil Farrugia, Jack Ryan and Joe Manley stepping up from the Under-17s side.
Manager Colin O’Neill thinks the new signings will complement nicely the experienced players already in his side.
“We have a good young squad here and we have added a number of young players to our first team set up. These players will add to an already talented squad and of course we have a number of players throughout the squad now who are very experienced in the League of Ireland despite their young age.”
With the College and University side competing in several other competitions, the first team’s preparations have been a little disrupted. One such distraction has been their progress to the CUFL premier division final but O’Neill believes success in other competitions boosts his team.
“Obviously, it disrupts pre-season a bit as some players will miss certain sessions. However, this season has been a little different to most and there is no substitute for competitive matches.
“Our squad this year is a lot younger than previous years, with 18 of our first team squad now in the University on scholarship so most of them are playing in these matches week in week out.
“The intensity of the CUFL games is also a lot higher than most regular pre-season games, so this has allowed players to get up to the pace and match fitness quicker.”
O’Neill also sees a boost in the players getting their hands on silverware so early in the season.
“It’s not often teams get the chance to lift silverware so early in the season, so the lads will be looking to dig deep over the next two weeks in the hope of coming away with some trophies.
“Playing in these competitions provide players with great memories and are a great platform for players to develop with most of our most successful players in recent years all winning Collingwood Cups, Harding Cups, and the CUFL title.”

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