University College Dublin (UCD) men’s football team suffered a heartbreaking 2-3 defeat to Longford Town FC after conceding a last minute goal in extra time. If things had gone their way in the semi-final, the team would be looking at promotion to Ireland’s highest football division, the Premier League.

The College Tribune spoke with Andrew Myler, UCD’s Manager, and Jack Keaney, UCD’s Captain, on the extra time defeat. Post-match, the silent dressing game reflected the game as “one of the worst ways to lose a football match” and a “bitter pill to swallow” said Keaney.

“I spoke to them after the game on Saturday and we said we’re proud of them as a group,” Myler said. “They’re really solid guys who really represent themselves, their families and the University well.”

The post-game talk was conveyed as being raw; “I haven’t said a lot yet because I think you need the disappointment to settle down before you think about it and see where we go next.”

Myler commented on the team’s structure on Saturday and in past league games. Covid-19 was surprisingly a big help. “It gave the staff an opportunity to sit down to change the formation,” Myler said.

“We moved to three at the back, 3-4-3 , it seemed to suit the players we had,” Myler said. This allowed the team in the second half of the season to distinguish themselves as an impressive attacking side. The team will focus on tightening their defence next season, “we need to tighten up in defence, as soon as we do that we are a threat for anybody”.

Equally, Covid-19 has had its disadvantages for the squad. The fixture list being shortened due the suspension in play mid-season did not work in the team’s favour. The end of the season seemed to come a bit early for the group. “The group was just coming together,” Myler said. “As we were coming through you could find the group getting stronger and stronger.”

However, looking to the future the team has extremely high hopes with plenty of players at the start of their college career, “we don’t expect to have turn over next year and were looking forward to having a somewhat settled group for the next while.”

Myler gave great insights into his coaching style over the season, “it will be the players who win, it won’t be the coaches so we try to give them as much ownership as we can.”

“If they can just engender themselves with the ownership of performing week in and week out, that’s the important bit and that will stand with them for the rest of the career.” Although, ownership of their performance does not sound like it will be a worry if the last season is a tell-tale sign. “They want to do better which is really good and they want to keep pushing on which is a great sign in a group,” Myler said.

Everything has come to an abrupt standstill now that the league has ended prematurely for the boys in blue. Many of the lads will go home for the first time in weeks. Keaney expressed how crucial it is that the team relax in the upcoming weeks and to come back rested, “you need to have the low downs with your family and friends, and take it easy”.

The league starts again in February, where the team will be hungry and determined to hit the ground running and do what they couldn’t achieve this year. In the meantime, the squad will focus on rest, rehabilitation and their diet to ensure they come back at their best both mentally and physically.

Laoise Murray – Sports Writer