UCD’s Unique Place in Soccer

UCD is the only University football team in Europe that is playing at the highest level of elite football.  That is a unique position which in many ways defines the club in terms of what its objectives are and how it sees itself within the top flight of the sport in Ireland.

Sport for Business met with Honorary Secretary Richard Shakespeare ahead of the start of the new SSE Airtricity league season and looked at how the club is going back to the roots of sport in the college by fielding a full scholarship team for the season ahead; how the club is in a strong financial position following a European run; and what the new structures of U19, U17 and U15 are doing to strengthen its base.

“We have focused on our strengths of developing young players and taking a broad view of the role which football plays in their lives.”

“The rationale is that if you hang onto experience too long it impacts on the pipeline of players you have coming through.”

“We have a strong, very well defined scholarship programme in place now and we are willing to back that.”

“We’ve proven to be strong at U19 and U17 and have spent a lot of time in the off season looking at how we can roll that through to the new U15 League starting in August.”

“The original ideals of the late Tony O’Neill included providing a rock solid education to players who might not otherwise have been able to avail of that.”

“It’s a different perspective to most clubs operating across Europe but that pointy of difference is an important one for the make up of the club.”

“We want to develop players as well rounded individuals.  our focus is on the mind as well as the feet and in that sense we are close to the Dutch system.”

“It is not that we have less ambition to perform well but that performance is seen in a different light.”

“Football can be a secondary objective for players who want to develop themselves and we are first and foremost a University team.”

“Players who are eligible to play in the Collingwood Cup will do so if selected, even if that impacts on the first division side we have a call on for Friday’s opening fixture against Cabinteely.”

“We have a place in the League of Ireland structure and ireland has a place in the European structure.”

“The development of U19, U17 and U15 across Europe will give a greater platform for young players to grow.”

“We have produced some great players down the years, that have had an opportunity to develop a football career, but not at the expense of everything else.”

“Joe Hanrahan had a chance at Man United.  Alex Ferguson said to him that he needed them more than they needed him and Joe said, well no.  He didn’t get to play in the Champions’ League but he was able to return and join the Investment Bank of Ireland.”

Empowering

“It empowers players to make decisions when they have a good educational background.”

“Six of last year’s Dundalk team started out with us.  Robbie Benson got 620 points in his Leaving Cert and has a degree in Actuarial Studies but he’s happy to park that while he pursues his career in Football.  Robbie came in through the scholarship programme and that’s what UCD is all about, providing opportunity in a wider context.”

“We are not covetous of players, we are happy to encourage them to move on.  Dylan Watts played four games for us in Europe and has now moved onto Leicester.”

“We are custodians of an approach to football and education that is different, but no less important for that.”

Financial

“We are in a strong financial position.  There are no debts in the club following our great, if somewhat unexpected opportunity to compete in the Europa League.”

“We are comfortable now that we will compete at a level that we have the capacity to do so.  It is important that we honour our commitments and we treat the players with absolute respect, giving them an experience in terms of back up, support and a professional approach that is central to what we see as important.”

“The players are the club and the fact that those players join us as students as leave as graduates is incredibly important.”

“We have a ground through the college which is great but we still have to raise €400,000 per year to compete in the First Division and manage the Scholarship programme.  It’s a challenge but it’s one we are happy to step up to meet.”

“We’ve a great team of coaches working alongside Diarmaid McNally and we are active in promoting the sport through the College Leagues that are a vital part of encouraging sport for the broad student population.”

“Seeing lads moving from the U19’s into the first team will be really interesting this year, and with so many players and teams competing through the year it’s never quiet.”

“For most clubs this weekend is the start of the year but for us it’s also Collingwood and all the teams have a place in UCD Soccer.”

Through this week we will also be talking to Chairman of Cabinteely FC Larry Bass about their ambitions in the years ahead and to Shamrock Rovers and Cork City about how they are shaping up for the SSE Airtricity Premier League kicking off this weekend.

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