UCD AFC football away days

Off to see University College Dublin play Drogheda for another LOI away day trip.

Have seen the students a few times, nice little ground even if they have no supporters….

UCD AFC football away daysFounded in 1854 as the Catholic University of Ireland, later established as UCD, the University College Dublin was where all good Catholics were sent to for further education. The University has over 32,000 students and is easily Ireland largest university. Like a small town, its that big, situated on a 133-hectare (330-acre) campus out in Belfield, not that far from the city centre, south of the Liffey.

Perhaps the best known of all the UCD’s graduates is James Joyce, like myself a Bachelor of Arts waster, and unlike me, a world renowned writer, but I am working on it, ok. Other notable alumni (alumni’s, plural?) include three Presidents of Ireland and five Taoisigh (Prime ministers), Brian O’ Driscoll who is amongst over 70 Rugby Internationals, and, for us football junkies, ex Man United star, Kevin Moran. There are also five Nobel Laureates amongst University College Dublin’s alumni and current and former staff. Pretty impressive I must say.

Pub watch

Madigan’s Pub Abbey Street

Address: 4 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1, Dublin

 http://www.madigansabbeyst.com/

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UCD AFC football away daysAs I was over ten minutes early for the Dublin bus (I took number 11, The Clonskeagh entrance to Belfield, but you could take other options), I decided to sneak into Madigans just around the corner from O’ Connell street, on Lower Abbey Street, just across from the Luas stop. Always a safe option for a good pint of plain.  Quick pint, no problem, good stuff.

Established in 1991, Madigans is run by the Madigan Family. The pub appears lovely from the outside, a real old fashioned bar, and inside it has the hallmarks of a decent looking boozer, with efficient service, and good pints, all in a nice relaxed atmosphere.

Just off O’Connell street with all the hustle and bustle, this is a place you can have a quite pint, the kind of pub that you can have a good chat in, a nice mixed crowd, no music or TV blaring out.

Good pint, and suitably refreshed for my bus journey to UCD, onwards…….

UCD Club House Bar

Address: UCD Campus

http://www.ucd.ie/studentcentre/services/theclubhouse/

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UCD AFC football away daysA bit early for the game, so I went looking for a student bar. Every college has some sort of student boozer, so sure enough, after a brief search I came onto the UCD Club House Bar. was packed to the rafters inside, as it looked like some rugby types were having an end of season do, all booted and suited, and a lot of drink taken.  A very modern interior, with a decent bar, and more importantly they also served food. I had some sausages and chips, soaked in vinegar and red sauce. An unhealthy option but I was hungry!UCD AFC football away days

It has two floors, but with space tight I didn’t venture too far.

Apparently this is the only student bar on campus, so for over 30,000 students it figures that this bar is always crammed to the rafters!

The Porterhouse Central 

Address: 45-47 Nassau Street
Dublin 2

http://www.theporterhouse.ie/bars-dublin-central.php

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After the game, and back in town, I went to The Porterhouse Central,  in Nassau Street, not far off Trinity College, and at the bottom of Grafton Street.

The Porterhouse Brewing Company is a chain of bars that have a reputation for serving craft beers and holding a lot of good time music events. Apparently it has the longest bar in Dublin…

UCD AFC football away daysFounded in 1989 by Liam La Hart and Oliver Hughes, with the first one in Bray, they now have six bars in and around Dublin, and one in both London and New York

I normally don’t like chain pubs but after having visited the original Porterhouse in Bray, which made a good impression on me, sure why not……

If you are a craft beer junkie then this is surely the place to be, they have a huge selection of craft beers on the menu,…also have a lot of their own unique house brews as well, including their alternative Guinness beer called Oyster Stout, which I am kicking myself for not trying as it is meant to be pretty good (a good excuse to return!)

The place was teeming on a Saturday night, but still relatively easy to get a good seat at the bar (well if they have the longest bar….), and also not so loud to have a good conversation. Atmosphere was cheerful and lively. Ordered some strong craft beer, that I forgot the name of, but it was bloody good.  Service was prompt, despite the big crowd.

University College Dublin A.F.C.

UCD AFC football away days

Nickname: The Students, College

Arena/Stadium: UCD Bowl

Location: Belfield, Dublin 4

Capacity: 3,000

Manager: Collie O’Neill

Founded: 1895

Leagues: League of Ireland First Division

Club home page 

Email: diarmuid.mcnally@ucd.ie

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UCD AFC, or University College Dublin Association Football Club, play in the second tier of League of Ireland football, and are a semi pro team that mostly use players who also attend the university. Many players avail of the opportunity to earn a degree while playing top class, or relatively top class football. UCD’s claim to fame was running an Everton team close in the European Cup Winners Cup in the 1984/85 season, a team that had the calibre of Southall, Sheedy, Sharp, Reid and Gray in its line-up, going down just 1-0 in aggregate.

AUCD AFC football away dayslso more importantly it is said that Socrates, the legendary Brazilian chain smoker and sometime footballer, played for the team when he was a student of UCD back in the day.

(Even though I love to dream, that’s unfortunately more than likely an urban myth)

Founded way, way back in 1895 as the Catholic University Medical School Football Club, and in 1908 they became University College Dublin when the Catholic University merged with University College Dublin. Over the next few decades they played in university competitions,  and other various non league competitions

But it wasn’t until 1979 that UCD were elected to the league proper. Dr. Tony O’Neill, affectionately known as “The Doc”,  had a huge hand in getting UCD on board, and was the man who was instrumental in getting sports talent to the university, be they soccer, rugby, athletics or GAA performers. He introduced the sports scholarships scheme, at that time a pretty radical and unique concept to Ireland. He was general manager when the club joined the League and remained in that role until his untimely death from cancer in October 1999.

UCD AFC football away daysStruggling in the 80’s and not really making much of an impression, the club decided by the end of the 1982/83 season to turn semi-pro, and players outside of the college were allowed to represent the first team, a practice that is still maintained today, albeit with still a heavy emphasis on graduates playing for the for first team.  This seemed to have the desired effect as UCD wont their first piece of real silverware, winning the FAI cup in 1984 (sorry Leinster Senior Cup doesn’t count!), beating Shamrock Rovers 2-1 after a replay.

UCD AFC football away daysOf course winning the cup saw UCD qualify for European competition – the old European Cup Winners Cup – for the first time. They were drawn against Everton. As hard as it is to believe now, they were once a top class team and had a pretty decent side, a team of illustrious players such as Andy Gray, Peter Reid, Kevin Sheedy and Neville Southall, amongst others. Drawing the home leg 0-0, a heroic display for the part timers, they bowed out at Goodison Park, losing 1-0 win, despite hitting the post late on. The rest they say is history, as Everton went onto win the entire competition (they also won the English First Division that season). Small margins!

With financial difficulties, UCD had to sell a lot of their star players, this resulting in a relegation, and so this began a trend for a few years of promotion followed by relegation as the club was yo-yoing between the two divisions,  but it did include a 9 year stint in the top division.

Another amazing European adventure was just last year when the students, qualifying via the Uefa fair play spot, progressed past the first round of the Europa league against Luxembourgers F91 Dudelange, a full time team with considerably more resources than lowly first division outfit UCD. No one gave them a chance, some said they would embarrass the League of Ireland, yet there they were holding on to progress into the second round. For a small team it was some achievement and luckily enough I was there! Read it here

Away days in the Duchy

Since March 2015, UCD have competed in the First Division, the second tier of the League of Ireland.

From the 2008 season they have played at the UCD Bowl, also home to the college’s rugby team. ‘The Students’ play in sky blue and navy.

To the game

UCD 2 – 2 Drogheda United

Attendance: 300

UCD AFC football away daysCracking first half, it really was. Four good goals, end to end action and all round good football.

Ryan Swan scored the opening goal, running on from a lovely through ball from Watts right onto the on running Swan, who slotted it home beautifully, what a well taken goal. Not soon after Swan had a similar chance but this time the Drogheda goalie McGuinness was onto it.

But the lead didn’t last too long, as the Drogs were level as Kirwan tapped home from a spilled shot from the UCD net minder, Corbet, who did well to block the original shot.

UCD got back in front from a Gary O’Neill free kick that took a bit of a deflection, leaving McGuinness with no chance in the Drogheda goal, hitting the back of the net.

But just before half time Drogheda got the equalizer, Sam O’Connor with plenty of space manged to drill home to put the teams level before half time.

Four goals, cracking first half, game on, or so I thought, but sure enough the second half had no goals. Thank Christ I didn’t manage to go all in with 5 or more goals with some internet bookies.  It still was a very entertaining second half, lots of end to end chances for both teams, with Swan in particular going close on a few occasions.

It ended 2-2, a fair score for two teams that played good football and showed a lot of heart. A good enjoyable game. Enjoyed it.

Interview

Short chat with Stephen from the supporters group, UCD AFC supporters club.

My name is Stephen and I’m secretary with the UCD AFC supporters club and we were created in 2010 just to give a bit of a structure and direction for UCD fans going to matches.

UCD AFC football away daysAnd did you attend UCD yourself as a student!

I never did, no, in my teenage years I looked at the league of Ireland senior division table, it was only one long list at the time and I thought ok well I am got to have to start supporting a Dublin team here and Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers were at the top and I thought no they were too successful for me so I looked right down and it was all names of country towns, Drogheda, Athlone, and Dundalk, and right down at the bottom was UCD and Shelbourne, and Shelbourne I thought, just in case Shelbourne are really, really bad, I better just support the team ahead of them, that’s UCD. So I started supporting UCD.

Ok, and how long ago was that?

That was in ’83, I was watching them from the paper let’s say and from radio, and I started going to matches in ’87, 1987

And what kind of crowds do you get to support UCD? Do you get any students? Do they actually bother coming down, do you get them out of the bars?

Well yeah, it can be tricky, especially on Fridays nights. First of all supporters do come, from the campus to support players who are studying in their own faculty so you will have little groups of 2’s and 3’s and that, all the time coming down, and then occasionally especially when the pressure of exams are off you’ll get more groups coming down and maybe a singing section as well, coming through in the summer.

And I want to ask about the team, is it semi-professional or is there a few professionals or is there some students or what, what is the structure?

In the recent past it’s been mostly students and then the odd players who are especially returnees who had a connection with a club and the university before so we would say we are kind of part time graduates, students and then graduates, we even have leaving cert students in our squad as well

Ok that’s pretty cool. And all those years, the best season?

Well it probably would be a premier division season, there has been little good spells, I think I’m going to say a period of time, we were 9 years in the premier division from 85 to 94 and so that was my best time supporting UCD, and I’d like to go back there. Now we do consider ourselves a premier division team even though we are in the first division this year because we spent I think only three seasons in the first division in the last 21 years, so we do consider ourselves definitely premier division, but yeah that spell of matches, there was one year in 99/2000 where we finished fourth and qualified for the InterToto cup and then we played in Bulgaria, and then the following June, that early, so June 2000 was a good time.

And the European adventure last season?

That was amazing, that’s was 4 matches in July, was incredible, especially we were granted access to the Uefa cup very late, in March through Uefa’s own fair play calculations so Ireland got a place and that was given to UCD, and just the preparations and the amount of work that the club had to put in to prepare for that, because we held two home games here at the UCD bowl and that was very special for us that people would say no, no outside of UCD and the LOI they would insist it would have to be moved but we showed we can hold them here

You did the league proud I think, for a small club really…

I agree with you, there was a bit of negativity saying why should they, they are only first division, and its UCD and they are going to embarrass us, but we won our first game against a Luxembourg team here and then we travelled away a week later and it was just an incredible emotional match in Luxembourg because the players were out on their feet by the end of it but we went through into the next round.

And what about this season so far, how do you think its panning out?

It’s slow at the moment, Limerick have set their stall out, they have won six games out of six , and they look like they will completely dominate the league, so it’s for the lesser places, 2nd of third or play off places so we will really be fighting for that but it’s not over yet for the first place but we have Limerick next week, but at the moment the signs are they will dominate the league, but we will look to get off into the play off places again and hopefully we will get up through that.

And just one or two players to look out for, we should note?

 We have a centre back Maxi Kouogun, and it’s his second season here

He is very strong!

He is strong at the back, and he is scoring up front, he is our leading scorer at the minute with 4 goals and they have all come from headers from corners from Kieran Marty Waters, so Maxi as a centre back, and maybe a new player for us is Georgie Kelly, he came to us from Derry City, and he always looks lively, and hopefully he will be a good player for us this year, he is a new player.

How did you manage to get Kieran Marty Waters?

Well he would be one of the lets say part time professionals if you like rather than just graduates, I think we just gave him traction

Because he came from Shamrock Rovers, didn’t he?

He did come from Shamrock Rovers, he was having a quiet time there and he wasn’t getting much off a game, I think there was a few people ahead of him, so we just obviously gave him a package, and invited him to say what we are doing here and he was attracted to it.

So why do you think people should pop along to their LOI team?

Cause its local, you are going to meet people that you probably didn’t know, went to games from other circles in your life, you are supporting players who are playing at the top league in the country, and this is the best that is available, there is great friendliness and hospitality at ALL LOI grounds, I mean you go anywhere, and yet there is still a kind of a solidarity as well between us as well because we feel we are up against it with even other sports in the country as well as football in neighbouring countries as well.  We fell there is a lot of emphasis on other football but not Irish football, so we have a solidarity there between ourselves and also then at the matches themselves you have small groups singing and chanting right through the game and there is a lot of colour and you can be part of the noise or you can sit and watch the noise.

I mean the package is ok too, I mean tonight’s game, it was good I thought, a good game

Yeah we had 4 goals in the first half

A lot of chances as well

Exactly, yeah Drogheda equalised twice, and we are a bit disappointed about that, but that’s how tough the first division is, there is about 4 teams that are all about similar standard and they are looking for two play off places.

Ok thanks, that’s grand

Ok thank you

 Overall impressions:

Always like going to see UCD, two reasons, a nice little ground, and they always entertain, always play decent football, on the ground the way it should be played.

Was good to have the chat with Stephen who gave me all the low down on the club, and for joining me for a few pints after, was good.

By the way its ace that you can get good broadband at the ground, one of the definite advantages of playing within UCD!

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Beer drinker and all round annoyance. Likes drinking, football, cricket and having a good time.
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