Collie O'Neill: Because they were all similar in age, they became a much closer knit group and because of that we went on to win a First Division

Wed, Apr 22 2020

Collie O'Neill during his time in charge of UCD. Credit: Martin Doherty (ETPhotos)

Former UCD boss Collie O’Neill has highlighted the importance of UCD’s decision to go with a scholarship based model as one of the main reasons for his side’s league title win in 2018.

The Drogheda native was relieved of his duties in charge of the Students in August 2019, after a damaging 10-1 defeat away to Bohemians at Dalymount Park.

“It was probably the one year when I learned the most and it’s one where I think the experiences will stick with me the longest,” O’Neill reflected on 2019 on the Extatime.ie Sportscast.

“There was plenty of mistakes – from me. But I think the biggest regret of all was the day when we played Waterford there was the internal suspension for Conor Kearns. I should have walked that day.

“The second was that we were having feedback from the board that they were unhappy with the style of play I tried to implement in that we were going too defensive and it wasn’t the UCD way.

“I changed it a little bit then, for that Bohs game in the second half because of the criticism that was coming.

“I should have stuck to that rather than the open attacking football that the board wanted to play. They were probably my two biggest regrets.”

When asked about the potential for UCD to be able to regularly compete in the top-flight he added: “Probably not. The reason for it is that it is fine for the First Division because the standard of opposition isn’t that great and the age group of the players that means you can compete at that level.

“What we found out last year was that when you made the step up to that level, we found it hard to compete at that level.”

The scholarship model as it is referred to as was implemented in 2017 after a far from successful 2016 campaign at the UCD Bowl.

“For example, the year after Europe obviously the club came into a bit of money so we thought let us sign some extra external players and we could walk away with the First Division – easy!,” he adds.

“We had Brian Shortall, Jason Byrne, Marty Waters and Cathal Brady – there was a few outside players we brought in and we were terrible that year.

“So, we thought let’s get rid of some of the external players and keep it for all the players in the college so we can get a little bit of extra work done.

“My Pro License thesis was built around this model and the benefits was that we had a great year the year after when Waterford won the First Division.

“The big thing was that there weren’t the outside guys giving out about the younger guys and vice versa.

“There wasn’t that split. Because they were all similar in age, they became a much closer-knit group and because of that made us and we went on to win a First Division with it.”