Liam Kerrigan (left) and Colm Whelan (right) starred for UCD in their win over Bray last night.
deadly duo

'They're easily good enough to play beyond the League of Ireland'

UCD boss Andy Myler paid tribute to Liam Kerrigan and Colm Whelan after they starred in the play-off final against Bray.

UCD BOSS Andy Myler hailed the performance of “1 to 11″ as UCD beat Bray Wanderers 2-0 in the First Division play-off final at Dalymount Park last night, but he reserved special praise for Ireland U21 duo Liam Kerrigan and Colm Whelan.

Kerrigan regularly caused the Seagulls’ defence problems with his pace and trickery on the counter-attack, while Whelan was a similar threat and scored a superb free-kick that proved the catalyst for UCD’s win.

Whelan and Kerrigan have regularly lit up the First Division — with 18 and 13 goals respectively, they have been two of the league’s three top scorers in 2021 (Shelbourne’s Ryan Brennan with 14 goals is the other).

Their performances have seen them linked with moves away from the Students — Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers are reportedly among the interested suitors.

But Myler believes the pair can potentially excel even beyond Irish football.

“They can go as far as they want, as far as I’m concerned,” he said afterwards. “I think they’re easily good enough to play beyond the League of Ireland if that’s across the water of somewhere else. They’re both young guys, really early on in their careers.

“If they make the switch to full-time football when they finish their degrees with us, that will really benefit them. The most important thing with any young footballer is that they have actually ceiling room in terms of improvement. And there’s lots of improvement in their game still to come, so I think they can be whatever they want to be.”

The pair have only just returned from international duty. Both have impressed in the Ireland U21 setup  — Kerrigan made his debut at home against Luxembourg last month and won the penalty for the second goal of a 2-0 win, while Whelan scored in the away match with Luxembourg before getting his first start in the defeat by Italy last week.

Myler admitted it was a nervous wait for the pair to return from international duty with Jim Crawford’s side ahead of Friday’s crucial play-off.

“In fairness to Jim, the U21 setup is excellent, they look after the players really well. You don’t really have any fears in that regard, but you are crossing your fingers that the lads come back in one piece and that they’re ready to go.”

Asked whether UCD might struggle to keep hold of the duo next season, Myler added: “There’s a point that comes in the UCD cycle that players are going to leave and that’s just accepted, it’s part of what we do. Fellas will move on and when it’s time for Collie and Liam and other lads in the squad at the moment to move on, we want the very best for them and we wish them well.”

Whelan, meanwhile, suggested he was going nowhere in the immediate future.

“I’m still finishing my degree, so UCD will be where I’m at,” he told The42.

The 21-year-old Kilkenny native’s stunning free-kick for the opener was quite probably the most important goal he has scored in his career to date as it proved a key moment in what was a very tight match.

“I was buzzing. I’d been fouled from the free-kick, so I just told Jack [Keaney] I want to have it. I just put it down and hit it with sheer anger, so it was lovely to see it go in.
It was definitely one of my favourite goals [of my career so far].”

UCD now go on to play Waterford at Richmond Park on Friday in the promotion-relegation play-off, as they look to improve on a narrow 3-2 defeat suffered against the Blues in the FAI Cup earlier this season.

“I’m looking forward to that game,” said Kerrigan. We’ve already played them this year in the cup, so it should be a cracker of a game.”

Myler, meanwhile, played down any notion of UCD seeking revenge following the cup loss.

“We’ve only one reason to want to beat them, to get into the Premier Division. But listen, a really good side, Waterford, a side that have a lot of good attacking players, a lot of goals in their team. We’ve done a bit of work on Waterford already, they’ve done a bit of work on us. A completely one-off situation next week with a lot more money on the table. We just need to prepare properly and if we get the performance levels that we got here tonight, we’ll take what comes after that.

“So two good footballing sides going at it last week on a decent pitch — it’ll be a good game for the neutral, I’ve no doubt about it.”

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