First team coach Collie O'Neill had a chat about life at UCD and more
By Jamie Moore
Collie O’Neill is our first team coach. Now living just up the road from Belfield in Churchtown, he grew up in Drogheda but is now almost a fully fledged Dub having lived, coached, managed and worked in Dublin since his early teens.
He’s 36 and away from football, Collie or ‘Hitler’ as he is sometimes called by the lads, works as an IT Consultant (he thinks he knows everything there is to know about computers and the likes)
Football has always been in Collie’s family, as his dad was a coach with Home Farm when they were a League of Ireland team so he naturally became involved in football from a young age playing his schoolboy football for Glebe North and Home Farm.
Moving into senior football, his first club was Home Farm Everton where the manager at the time was Dermot Keely who Collie ended up working with at Shelbourne. More on that later.
The majority of his playing career was in the Leinster Senior League playing for Beggsboro and St Mochtas.
“I wasn’t much of a player, I was as useful as Sami Belhout is at singing (not very good), I was one of those players who ran around, kicked people, won the ball back and then gave the ball to someone else who could pass it properly.” Ah the honesty, if you were to watch Collie in action in training today (he tries to take part sometimes when we have odd numbers), the physical side of his game is as evident as ever… pity about the rest!! But when he was flatted by U19s left winger Sean Coyne at the weekend his tough guy image was called into question!
15 years ago the O’Neill family moved to New Jersey in America to set up running soccer camps, but Collie didn’t go.
“I had just started a new job in an architect’s office so I decided to stay. I would head to the states every summer and help run the summer soccer camps. The soccer school is still going strong today with my brother running it after my dad passed away.”
His first job coaching job was as first team coach and U21 manager with the now disbanded Dublin City.
“As I was always coaching from a young age the progression from a player to a coach was never a problem for me, the thing I missed most was being able to kick people but as a coach I realized that making players get sick from high tempo training sessions was very satisfying.” (He’s a nice guy really!!)
From there he moved to Dundalk and then to Shelbourne where he was first team coach and then manager up until the end of the 2010 season.
“I really enjoyed my times at Shels, the education I got off Dermot Keely was priceless, everyone only ever sees him ranting and raving at players from the touchline but to see him at work on the training ground and in the dressing room was amazing.“
Keely quit the club towards the end of the 2007 season, and at the request of the players, Collie was appointed manager for the last seven games. Five wins and two draws… not a bad record!
“My final week was a hectic one, we played Finn Harps away on a Friday, my first son Luke was born on the Sunday and the following day we beat Sporting Fingal to reach the final of the Leinster Cup, it was my last game in Tolka and I never wanted the game to end. My final game was four days later and it was a 1-0 win away to tonight’s opponents Cork. The following day Alan Mathews was appointed as manager.”
Col loves a laugh and when I asked him about a funny memory from his time in footy is told me this brilliant story:
“When I was with Dublin City, we were playing away to Kilkenny and Dermot Keely was suspended. Dermot was sitting in the stand and had an FAI delegate following him around the place. We were losing 2-0 at half time, Dermot told the delegate he left his coat on the bus and needed to get it, he got on the bus and laid down on the floor so the delegate couldn’t see him on the phone, Dermot rang my phone and I put him on loud speaker and put the phone on the table in the middle of the room. Dermot proceeded to have a rant at the team, thankfully he couldn’t throw any water bottles down the phone! One of our players Detser would always sit down at half time looking at his boots, Dermot then signed off his rant by screaming at Detser “Detser stop starring down at your f**king boots and go out and kick the s**t off them.” If you had heard some of Collie’s half time rants something similar may happen in future!
He currently holds a UEFA A licence coaching badge (one below to top Pro Licence qualification) and arrived at UCD at the start of last season.
Collie is quick to praise UCD manager Martin Russell:
“To say I’ve had the best education in football coaching would be an understatement, I’ve worked for five years with Dermot Keely learning the art of defending and man management and I’m now in my second year working with the best manager this country has to offer, learning how to play the game in the right manner. You really couldn’t put a price on the education I’ve received. UCD is one of those places where it’s not just a club, it’s like a family and Martin and Diarmuid work hard to make it like that.”
He also enjoys working with younger players: “They’re a great bunch of lads, being younger than I would have coached before what they lack in experience they make up for in enthusiasm and all I ever expect of a player is to try.”
Tonight’s game sees the start of the final round of league fixtures and with UCD sitting bottom of the table, needing to pick up points to confirm Premier Division football at The Bowl next season.
“It’s not a case of can we stay up, we will stay up. I always believe that the league table doesn’t lie, we are where we are because we conceded some goals we shouldn’t have and didn’t convert some good chances we created but we are heading in the right direction to turn some of those defeats and draws into victories.”
And what about plans for the future? “I did enjoy my time as manager of Shels and maybe someday I will have a go at managing but I still have a lot to learn and at the moment I really love running coaching sessions or Hitler coaching session as the players sometimes like to call them when I make them run.”