Manager: Collie O’Neill.
Stadium: UCD Bowl.
Players in: Richie O’Farrell (St Patrick’s Athletic).
Players out: Greg Sloggett (Derry City), Daire O’Connor (Cork City).
Extratime.ie Key Man: Gary O’Neill
Fresh from his PFAI First Division Player of the Year Award, UCD captain Gary O’Neill has finally got his chance to shine on the Premier Division scene with the Students.
The Kerryman was integral to Collie O’Neill’s success last term with his calming influence in the middle of the park complimenting some fine attacking movement in the final third.
With reports linking the former Wolves starlet with a move away from Belfield, it will be a relief for UCD supporters to see their main man stay on for another year, a year which could prove to be the making of the 24-year-old.
Extratime.ie One to Watch: Richie O’Farrell
Based off his pre-season performances at least, Richie O’Farrell looks destined for exciting things at the UCD Bowl.
The former St Patrick’s Athletic under-19 star joins the Belfield outfit on a sports scholarship having just completed his Leaving Certificate in 2018.
A Republic of Ireland under-19 international, O’Farrell has the potential to flourish in the Premier Division and given the departure of both Greg Sloggett and Daire O’Connor from the UCD midfield, the young 18-year-old Dubliner can make that position his own early on.
How they did last season:
League: First Division Winners
Confounding almost every pre-season prediction of where UCD would finish, Collie O’Neill and his backroom team steered their charges to a spectacular First Division title success.
After being completely written off by most quarters (including extratime as we predicted a seventh place finish!), the Students started their campaign off like a train before eventually securing the title in September.
Conor Davis scored the famous goal that night against Finn Harps which secured the Students their third First Division crown on a night of nerves at the UCD Bowl.
FAI Cup: Semi-Final
It was a cup run to remember for UCD last year as the Dublin 4 outfit reached the semi-final of the blue-ribbon cup competition.
After swatting past the challenge of Pike Rovers in the first round, UCD were very nearly stunned by Leinster Senior league side CIE Ranch before eventually powering past the Inchicore side 6-2 after extra-time.
Waterford then made the trip to the Bowl but goals from Timmy Molloy and Conor Davis saw the Students brush by the Premier Division opposition.
The Students eventually bowed out of the cup in the semi-final, falling to defeat by a mere one goal deficit against the eventual double winners Dundalk at Oriel Park.
EA Sports Cup: Second Round
UCD were not to have the same fortune in the EA Sports Cup as they were eliminated after a heart-breaking penalty shootout against Bohemians at Dalymount Park in the second round of the competition.
The Students raced into a two-goal lead before eventually tiring. JJ Lunney levelled for the Gypsies late on before Bohs eventually prevailed in a penalty shootout.
What to expect this season:
Heavily tipped for relegation, UCD will be acutely aware that they have much to do in order to stay in the top flight come the end of October.
While the Belfield outfit have lost both Daire O’Connor and Greg Sloggett, they will be buoyed by the fact that Richie O’Farrell has impressed during the early stages of his career at UCD.
Continuity will be the major strength of this young side who will undoubtedly stick to their core principles of play which has got them this far to date.
Neil Farrugia and Jason McClelland will both be hoping to make their mark, as will Liam Scales, who has been earning widespread praise for his defensive steel and composure at the crunch last term.
Conor Kearns also will be hoping to continue his development alongside Yoyo Mahdy who both enjoyed a breakthrough 2018 season.
This team will cause problems for many of the division’s more established clubs and don’t be one bit surprised to see the Students comfortably secure their place in the 2020 Premier Division.
Title Odds: 500/1
First game: Derry City (A) Friday 15thof February