On Friday evening a goal in either half from UCD Skipper Gary O’Neill and Jason McClelland saw the Students recording a third consecutive league victory when they defeated Shelbourne 2-0 at the UCD Bowl and after the game O’Neill spoke to Extratime.ie about his side’s performance.
“Yeah, we were happy with it.” O’Neill said about his side’s performance. “We knew it was coming, Shels are a very good side and we had a good battle with them in Tolka [Park] earlier in the season. We narrowly beat them 2-1 and we knew going into the break it was vital to get the three points after coming off the back of the Athlone and Cobh [victories]. We’ve got a good run going in the league now - a great three points in the end, but hard fought and we got there in the end.”
After a run of one win in six league games, O’Neill’s side returned to form with three consecutive league wins and the midfielder admits his side were inconsistent during the earlier parts of the season, but they held a meeting recently and have not looked back since.
“We were very inconsistent at the start of the season. Very hot and cold it was a case of winning games, losing games, drawing games week after week. It wasn’t good enough, but we had a meeting and we have put a few things right.
“The last few games have been tremendous, I think all the lads have been brilliant and Drogheda have to play Limerick [Saturday] so it's put the ball in their court to try and go beat Limerick, but now we’re very happy with what we can do so it’s all we are worrying about.”
When asked if it was fair to say his side performed better against the bigger side’s O’Neill agreed and explains maybe his side took games against Cabinteely and Waterford for granted, but against the bigger teams they always performed to their best.
“Yeah, I’d agree with that 100 percent” he said.
“No disrespect to Cabinteely and Waterford, we might have taken it a bit for granted. When we went down to the Markets Field I know we lost the game 4-1 [to Limerick], but at half-time it was 1-1 and we were down to ten men and we were well in the game.
“We were very good for the first-half Limerick came up here and we matched them stride for stride and lost 2-1. Shels in Tolka and Shels here [in the UCD Bowl] we’ve been very good.”
After struggling to find the net in 2015, the UCD Skipper is his side’s top scorer in the league this campaign and he admits he has already trebled his target for the season, but he also explains a large portion of his goals have come from set pieces.
“It’s strange, it’s different. Last season, I only got three goals and I set myself six for this year, that was my target and I’ve got nine in all competitions. I’m very happy how it’s going, but a lot (have come) off set pieces I’m not going to lie - not many from open play, but I’ll take what’s going I’m very happy at the moment.”
Two weeks ago when UCD hosted Premier Division side Bray Wanderers in the FAI Cup O’Neill saw his penalty, when the sides were level 3-3, sail over the crossbar and he told Extratime.ie that he was nervous for the first time taking a spot-kick.
“To be honest, there was” he said if he was nervous stepping up to take the penalty on Friday evening.
“I don’t normally get nervous taking penalties, but tonight I was kind of double thinking it, guessing do I go down the middle. I knew the keeper was going to move, but he moved early and he made up my mind and I just went to the other side and thankfully it went in and got us off to a good start.”
With Euro 2016 a week away the League of Ireland takes a three week break and the midfielder explains that he is looking forward to some time off having played a lot of football in 2016.
“We have two weeks, we are back in two weeks Friday. Looking forward to getting away and letting the body rest after playing in the Harding Cup and Collingwood Cup and I’ve played every minute of every game bar Athlone [last weekend]. The body needs a well deserved rest.”