Previewing the Students before the new SSE Airtricity Men's First Division
UCD - the great unknown. Much is said about the cycles that UCD go through in each season and with players in rotation through the League - often to great League of Ireland careers - it is often hard to predict just how UCD will fare each season.
The Students ended the 2023 season at the bottom of the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division table but produced some results from time to time of brilliance while maintaining competitive in every game.
Their penultimate game of the season probably summed them up best having come back briliantly against Shelbourne but conceded a late goal to give the home side all three points. So near yet so far.
They were were a team that refuse to give up in any situation and boast a number of fine young players who will be sure to go on to have careers similar to the likes of Liam Scales and co. Ronan Finn even.
Finn arrives back to the UCD Bowl in the twilight of his career but several League of Ireland titles and European experience in his back pocket as he reenters education.
The former Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk man will bring undoubted quality to the side and adds an interesting twist to a side that could well end up being the ones to lay the stiffest challenge to Cork City for the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division title.
Led by Manager William O’Connor, and along with the experience of Finn, the younger freshmen in the squad are likely to benefit hugely and grow into 2024.
With the likes of Eanna Clancy and Sean Moore at the core of the squad, UCD have players who have chosen the University route to mirror their playing career but mantain serious quality and potential that UCD will reap rewards from.
In Goalkeeper Kian Moore, they have a ‘Keeper who regularly topped the most number of saves charts in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division and is likely to be even better in 2024.
Striker Mikey Raggett, too, is a player who has shown great promise and has attracted interest around the League with the forward likely to be the main inspiration of goals in their race for promotion back to the top flight.
Despite the talent there - the Students have lost influential players with Daniel Babb going to Ipswich Town, Jesse Dempsey going to Lecce and Lorcan Healy departing to Shelbourne so there’s space to fill in the 2024 squad.
With the roster yet to be finalised, UCD are certainly one of the dark horses in the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division title race but will likely have a big say one way or the other come November.
Finish last season - 10th (SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division)
Manager - William O’Connor
Key player - Ronan Finn