Graham Rusk talks about his start to the season and his time with UCD AFC.
Five goals, five penalties; that's the record of UCD striker Graham Rusk this season and with nearly half of the Students' goals coming from the spot, the 22 year old is once again leading the goal scoring charts at the club. ucdsoccer.com's Ryan Bailey spoke to him about his career, this season and his goal scoring form…
Graham Rusk has been at UCD for four years now and has established himself as a first team regular after forcing his way through the ranks first grabbing the attention of Martin Russell during a schools game as he explains; "When I was playing for my school team in the Dublin final, I bagged a brace and luckily enough Martin Russell was there watching and then told me to apply for the scholarship scheme. So I did and went on trial and was accepted on scholarship and studied there for a year doing sports management"
The striker began playing football at the young age of six for his local club Portmarnock AFC and it was there where he learnt his trade before UCD came calling. Rusk has experienced success since moving to Belfield, with U20 Cup, A Championship and First Division medals to his name, not to mention the personal honours such as representing the Irish colleges/universities side in Serbia. It was in 2010 though that he really established himself as a leading light at the club after many of the bigger and more experienced names had departed, Rusk stepped up to the plate and bagged eleven goals in all competitions last year and helped the club finish in a healthy league position.
This season has started well for Rusk who finds himself as one of the league's leading net finders along with the likes of Gary Twigg but admits it's more important that the team are doing well and it’s as a result of the sides' good form that he has been given the chance to find the net. "I'm happy enough with how it's gone personally playing week in week out and scoring a few goals but once the team is doing well, that's the main thing"
"Incredibly I've scored five penalties but they all count at the end of the day!”
The 22 year old began his UCD career featuring on the wing as well as up front but in recent seasons has appeared in the lone striker role, that has changed with the emergence of young Chris Lyons this campaign as Rusk has played either just behind Lyons or as mentioned wide left and admits he doesn't mind what position he is asked to fill; "I don't mind where I play to be honest, once I am on the pitch and scoring goals, I'm happy!"
After Dean Marshall's departure during the Winter, Rusk took on the penalty taking responsibilities for this season and to date hasn't missed a spot kick so far. "Deano was taking them last year but I actually took the first one against Galway United and took a shocking penalty and missed so he took the next one and scored and it went on from there. We practise penalties the odd time but I'm confident stepping up because I've always taken them since I was young and am use to it"
Reflecting on this season so far, Rusk feels that their performances have been better than the league table suggests; "I think it has been a decent start but we are playing better football then our league position shows, and if we continue to play like we did in the second half against Rovers then surely we can only move upwards in the table and hopefully better our position in the league than last year"
"Our ambitions are to better our position in the league and with the players we have in our squad we’re are more than capable of that. I don't think other sides underestimate us now and they give us respect because we have shown throughout last season and so far this year that we can match the top sides and have been unlucky not to pick up more points off them."
On a personal level, the 22 year old aims to reach the fifteen goal mark this campaign as well as continuing to improve himself as an all-round player. He admits he has been offered a move away from Belfield before but is happy to stay at UCD as he knows the benefits of playing for the Students; "I'm happy here and like the style of football we play, you're given the chance to express yourself at a young age in the top league of Irish football and that is encouraged by the management staff which is important"
Looking ahead to the future, Rusk is taking inspiration from former Students who have made the grade at the top level either at home or abroad especially fellow striker Connor Sammon who has been a goal scoring success in Scotland before moving to Wigan. "I definitely look up to players like Connor, he deserves all the success he gets for all the work he puts in and with six former League of Ireland players in Ireland's Euro 2012 squad, it shows that you can make it. It happened so fast for most of them so I will just keep looking forward and working hard and you just never know!"
"Winning the U20 cup, A Championship cup or the First Division were all great moments with UCD so far because every player wants silverware but there will be plenty more success at the club in years to come with the great crop of young players in the squad at the minute" Rusk added. The striker recalls last year's friendly win over Villarreal as one of the best games he has featured in but is hoping for more memorable moments with the club in the next few seasons.