UCD manager Collie O’Neill understands the challenge that faces his students when they begin their first season back in the Airtricity League Premier Division on Friday night.
O’Neill’s side were the winners of last season’s First Division and their eye-catching style of football gained them many admirers on their way to clinching the title by three points.
UCD have always been one of the easiest teams on the eye in Irish football but despite the numerous plaudits his side deservedly won for their performances last season, O’Neill was keen to outline that no team will ever fear playing the students.
“I don’t think any team will ever fear playing UCD,” O’Neill told Pundit Arena at the Airtricity League launch on Tuesday.
“They always have that perception of ‘young students’ and teams will always try and get in our faces and stop us from playing.
“It’s something we work on in training, attempting to keep possession of the ball when people are trying to kick you so we will be well prepared.”
O’Neill’s side begin their return to the top flight with a trip to the Ryan McBride Brandywell to face a tricky Derry City side who have added well in the offseason.
Despite this being a tough start the UCD boss was quick to point out that the games don’t get any easier following their league opener.
“Derry is a tough start but is there any easy games? There isn’t going to be any easy games this year.
“It doesn’t make a difference if we are home or away to any team in the division, they’re all going to be tough.
“We might be fortunate enough that Derry haven’t bedded in fully yet because they’ve so many new players coming in there but we’re not going to worry too much about Derry we just have to try and focus on our own game.”
UCD’s strength, as always, surrounds the quality of youth that they possess in their ranks with the likes of Liam Scales, Neil Farrugia and new signing Richie O’Farrell all hoping to make their mark in the top division.
They do, however, possess a lack of top-flight experience something that O’Neill admits will make the season very tough despite the quality they have in abundance.
“I think there’s only three or four players in the squad who have top-level League of Ireland experience. There’s a lot of unknowns. Players are generally more comfortable with knowing things.
“It’s a case of them coming out of that comfort zone and being able to perform when there are so many unknowns but skill and ability I think the lads have that in abundance.”