Gavan Reilly's Portfolio writings, ramblings, mumblings

New season’s greetings

UCD winger David McMillan speaks to Gavan Reilly about his side’s chances in the new season

Seeing David McMillan in person, you mightn’t immediately suspect him to be a top-class soccer player. You certainly won’t think you’re meeting one of the rising stars of domestic soccer.

That’s precisely what McMillan is however; as one of the lynchpins of UCD’s successful push for First Division glory last season, McMillan’s prowess on the wing and sharpshooting ability was invaluable for the student side in returning to the League of Ireland’s Premier Division after just one season at the second tier.

McMillan is honest about UCD’s need to have bounced back after the disappointment of relegation. “It was such a new squad, that people didn’t know where we’d stand. It was always going to be a difficult season. That’s what made it such an achievement – that it was a brand new squad and they didn’t know what to expect from us, and that maybe gave us an element of surprise for other teams. It was brilliant to get straight back up.”

How realistic it might be for a club of UCD’s stature and means to remain competitive is another matter though. When the students were relegated in 2008, UCD were one of the few Premier League sides to have remained within its means. Since then, other sides such as Kilkenny City have folded altogether; others such as Galway United remain in precarious financial times, while Derry City have been ejected from the league entirely in a financial dispute with the FAI over its players holding dual contracts.

So how, being essentially restricted to the status of a feeder club, is UCD to survive? McMillian believes the club shouldn’t feel any lesser for its own status. “They’re not ever going to run out of business the same as some of the other clubs, they stay within their limits, and I think that’s a fair enough thing to do,” says the 21-year-old architecture student. “A lot of clubs don’t respect UCD for what they do but every club in the League of Ireland will have UCD players in it and I think it’s a club that should be admired rather than put down.”

That in mind, what are UCD’s goals for the season? McMillan remains optimistic of UCD’s chances of cutting it with the bigger and more experienced outfits. “It’s difficult to know until we start. I think people will underestimate us again like last year; I think we can do quite well. The main aim will be to steer clear of relegation… Some teams like Cork [City] haven’t even signed any players yet and it’s difficult to know who’s even going to be in the league, but we think we can stay clear of relegation and push further than people might expect.”

With a new season on the horizon and hopes of a more regular home crowd (“I have friends who are college students as well, and I ask them, ‘Why don’t you come?’) brimming, things could be worse for McMillan, who is happy to stay put with UCD for a few years yet. “Studying architecture is over 30 hours a week and it’s quite difficult, but UCD gives you a chance to go straight from college to training and a great opportunity to play at the top level while still studying. It’s very difficult to do that at any other