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Laszlo Geczo/INPHO UCD captain, Paul Doyle.
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'We can’t just play 4-4-2 and hoof it long. That’s not the way we were taught the game, it's not our identity'
UCD captain Paul Doyle says his side won’t resort to pragmatism as battle to avoid relegation intensifies.

NOT MUCH LIGHT reaches the foot of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division and as the days begin to grow darker, so do UCD’s chances of top-flight survival.

Finn Harps’ victory over Derry City coupled with the Dublin club’s defeat at home to Waterford FC saw Collie O’Neill’s side stay rooted to the bottom of table.

Having started the month brightly with a win over their relegation rivals, followed by a draw away to the Candystripes and an ill-tempered victory against Bohs at the UCD Bowl, things were looking up for the Southsiders.

“There was a lot of new faces in after we lost a lot of boys around that period,” says captain Paul Doyle. “A lot of fresh faces that were unknown to the other teams.  

“The lads proved to us and everyone around that they’ve got what it takes to play at this level. Younger lads who hadn’t played in the league previous to that. 

They stepped up really well. I wouldn’t say it was a false dawn or anything. We have the quality needed to stay up. It’s just all about getting a bit of momentum, getting a few results together. We did that over those three games.”

Then came the trip to Tallaght Stadium.

Stephen Bradley’s men came forward in their droves. First Graham Cummins, then Daniel Carr charged down the Students’ rearguard to inflict the damage. Jack Byrne glided between the lines to tear the defence apart before adding to his own individual tally for the season.

7-0 it finished.

“Tallaght is always going to be a tough fixture. We were beaten quite heavily but we can’t really dwell on that. Games are coming thick and fast. We just need to get ourselves together and get going again. 

We’re all very young. The average age was around 20 in the last couple of games. We’re all learning as we go along. It’s about learning quickly I suppose.”

Three points adrift of the Donegal side in 9th, UCD now face another daunting prospect when they host Derry City on Friday night.

Declan Devine’s men will be hoping to stay hot on the heels of Keith Long’s Bohemians with a place in next year’s Europa League up for grabs.

Doyle insists last week’s defeat to Waterford, their second in as many weeks and their 19th in 26 league games, won’t prompt a drastic change in philosophy.

“We thought we should have gotten a little more from last Friday. I thought we played well for most of the game to be honest. We controlled a lot of the game.

We don’t have the players to go kick it long and play a different formation. We can’t just play 4-4-2 and hoof it long. That’s not the way we were brought up in the game. Our style is our identity. It’s the way we play. That’s not going to change and nobody wants it to change. We don’t know anything else.

“Everyone is here to play football. As I said, we’re all here learning week-by-week. You can see that players are improving by their performances dramatically. Hopefully that will get us over the line. 

“Once we went back to 1-1 [against Waterford] the game was there to be won. I thought we were the side looking most likely to win.

“We just got caught by a good strike on the edge of the box. There’s not much the keeper could do about it. It’s great to have a home game against this week. We know what Derry are about, we know what we have to do to get a result.”

Moving forward

In the same way the team have not dwelled on recent defeats, a similar attitude has been taken to their positive results.

This month’s 1-0 win over Bohemians – subsequently overturned by the league and awarded as a 3-0 win due to the fact that the Gypsies had fielded the ineligible Daniel Mandroiu – wasn’t the focus for very long.

“We played Bohs on the Monday and the next game was the Friday.

“We went in the day after and we might have had a chat about it – dissect what was good and bad about the performance. At the end of the day we got a 1-0 win, but it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means.

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“You take the good with the bad. Just because you win a game there’s no sense in carrying that high all the way through the week.  You get back down to work. You get back to what got you that win.

“We’re looking at good performances and with good performances, usually the results will follow. There’s been a lot of games this year where we’ve dominated games and ended up on the wrong side of a 1-0 or a 2-1. That’s probably the most disappointing thing.

“But then, again, we’ve lost three or four players in the transfer window. If we’d shown you the teamsheet from our last game at the start of the season you wouldn’t have believed the names that were on it.”

The physiotherapy student highlights young talent like Harry McEvoy, Evan Farrell and goalkeeper Tom Murphy who have stepped up when called upon at this busy period of the season.

And as we enter the final stretch of fixtures in this year’s league campaign, the 21-year-old says that the club’s survival chances remain firmly in their own hands.

“We can only look after ourselves and keep working on our own game and our own results.  Someone else isn’t going to get us relegated or another team won’t keep us up.

“At the end of the day, it’s about what we do. That’s the way it is throughout the whole season. It was the same last year when we were going for a league title. If we’re good enough we’ll get the points to be where we need to be.

“If we’re not, we won’t.”


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