17 February 2014
Since the Colleges and Universities Football League was established at the beginning of the 2006- 2007 season when the Colleges FAI and the Irish Universities combined with the support of the FAI to launch an new all island league competition for Third Level students, the Premier Division has been dominated by two sides.
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UCD and IT Carlow between them have won the Premier League on five of the seven seasons' since it was first played for. The Belfield side were league champions in the opening two seasons' and again in 2010 while IT Carlow took the title in 2011 and 2012. The only other sides to break this monopoly have been University of Limerick (2009) and DIT last season. Strangely enough in all of those seven seasons UCD and IT Carlow have only met once in a Premier League game before this year's decider.
UCD manager Diarmuid McNally who has guided the Belfield side in all their many Third Level successes going back to that first Premier League win against Cork IT in 2007 remembers well that game against IT Carlow. 'It took place in January 2012 and it was a quarter final tie at their place. We had dominated the opening half with Paul Corry playing really well in midfield and Sean Buckley put us in front before the break' he said. 'Then our 'keeper Mark McGinley took down Danny Ledwith, who funny enough was on the UCD Airtricity League side at the time, for a penalty which Barry O'Mahony scored and he then went on to hit the winner' continued McNally.
Carlow followed this up by going on to retain the Premier League title with a comfortable win over Athlone IT in the final having beaten IT Tallaght for their first win the previous year. Paul O'Reilly who had been in charge at Carlow since the college first introduced its now highly popular BA Degree course in Sport and Exercise (Soccer) which has witnessed a huge raising in the standard of their football sides. This year will see all of the IT Carlow teams reach the finals in the four CUFL Divisions they compete in. So a clean sweep of all four titles is firmly on the cards.
'It's a great achievement for the college to have all of our teams get to the finals of the various divisions and full credit to the staff and the players for the big effort they have put in' said O'Reilly. O'Reilly knows that this Premier League meeting of UCD and IT Carlow has been long awaited by many in Third Level football and he too can vividly recall their only ever previous game and hope for a similar result.
John Hudson CUFL PRO