Ireland: Strong University College Dublin side not getting ahead of themselves.

After a blistering run of victories to start the season, University College Dublin, UCD, currently sits second in the table with a 4-0 record – separated only by points difference from the Dublin Rebels. The students have looked convincing so far, thrashing both the Belfast Knights and the Craigavon Cowboys in a sweep of the Northern teams that included a narrow win against the reigning champion Belfast Trojans.

And the secret to their early season success?

According to head coach Larry Doyle, it’s simple hard work and consistency:

 We’ve just put our head down and focused on ourselves since starting back up and we’ve been able to build on the returning players and the new crop that have joined since 2020.” “Without self-scouting, a team can’t improve, that applies to all stages of the pre-season and the season and all phases of the game.”

The south Dublin side currently lead the league in all offensive categories – a factor that has most certainly contributed to their success. Quarterback Arun Mooney and Co have racked up a staggering 150 points, with the signal caller personally contributing 12 passing touchdowns. Their leading receivers have combined for seven scores, while running back Sean McVeigh has added four on the ground. Moving the chains and the scoreboard on offense starts with the big men up front, something that Doyle is quick to point out:

If I had to give anyone a special mention though it would be to our Offensive Line group as a whole who’ve set the tone for us on countless occasions in games”. 

Not to be outshone, on defense UCD has allowed less than five points per game on average, adding three picks for good measure.

Every season and every squad is unique, and this year’s crop of players is no different, according to Mooney:

 “It’s difficult to compare past and present offenses as we have new faces, a new scheme and some new coaches. However, we have done really well so far this season and I’m proud of how everyone has performed but we know that we can do so much better. We are taking it one game at a time and working out any kinks we discover along the way.”

A consistently high level of play from some of the best football players in the country is what will ultimately win this team their first ever Shamrock Bowl title. But can they finally bring it home? 2018 and 2019 both featured semi final defeats; and from the outside at least, this season has an “all or nothing” feel about it.  From what we can see on the schedule, two major challenges remain for UCD: The Panthers and Rebels. The latter likely presents the biggest threat to a potential perfect season for UCD as well as being a firm favorite to feature in this year’s championship game. The Panthers endured a surprise defeat to a previous winless Admirals side on Sunday, something that can maybe be attributed to the recent abrupt departure of their head coach. The 2019 Shamrock Bowl runners up will without a doubt be seeking redemption when they return to action against UCD in 2 weeks’ time.

Wisely, they are not getting ahead of themselves:

“I believe each team in the league poses a unique challenge to our team. We experienced that in our first four games and we fully expect that the teams remaining on our regular season schedule to unveil more of the same. We are taking it one game at a time and trying not to get ahead of ourselves. We understand the season is a marathon and not a sprint.” Mooney tells us.

When asked about Shamrock Bowl aspirations and whether or not this is the year, a similar response was received from Doyle: 

There’s no difference this year to any other year. The focus has always been one game at a time and will remain so. We have 4 more regular season games before we get to even have the luxury of thinking about the post-season. If you hope to be truly competitive you have to have that mindset and let it drive you without losing focus on the task of beating your next opponent.”

The side formerly known as the Sentinels have always been there or thereabouts and seem to have figured out a winning formula that could finally bring home a trophy. Whether they can see it through or if they will once again fall at the final hurdle, however, remains to be seen.

Read the original article in Gaelic Gridiron by Jimmy English