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UCD GAA's Dave Billings in Support of UCD Soccer

Dave Billings speaks out in support of UCD AFC.Billings


Dave Billings is the Director of Gaelic Games in UCD. In response to an article published in the Sunday Independent, written by Eamon Sweeney, Dave wrote this letter in support of the work done by UCD Soccer Club and their right to take their place at the top table of Irish Soccer. 

"I am in charge of Gaelic games in UCD. I am also a regular reader of Eamonn Sweeney's articles on a Sunday.I was taken aback with his comments in relation to the criteria on who should play in the Premier Division of the League of Ireland [Jun 24]. 

I was amazed that he should question the status of UCD.While my main concern is that of UCD GAA, I have an abiding interest in sport and have followed League of Ireland since the days of Drumcondra in the league.I have seen teams come and go in the league and his definition of criteria of feasibility seems to lack logic. 

UCD participates in over 50 sports at college and also in some cases in national leagues. Our soccer team plays in a well-maintained stadium with a beautiful pitch. They pay their way and are supported by the college, which realises the importance of investment, not just in the academic support but also in the holistic development of students through sport. 

This was the brainchild of the late lamented Dr Tony O'Neill, who brought UCD soccer into the league and since his untimely death others have kept UCD in the league.The logic of judging entry by attendances is flawed because while paying spectators are important they are not the reason league teams fail. The reasons are many -- overspending on wages and managers, the quick fixes of signing ageing players for cup runs, lack of affinity with the area the teams play in are some. 

There is also a dislocation between what the FAI want and what is achievable at a local level. The same, sadly, is beginning to happen at club and provincial level in rugby.The spread of soccer in Ireland would be better served by playing local players and building a local base. I can remember the glory days of Waterford, Cork, Derry, Shels, Rovers and Finn Harps -- they did not fail because of lack of support. 

A national league should cater for the development of a team in Kerry, but not three in Galway, it should embrace the Sligos and Limericks of this country but it should also allow for the dream of Dr O'Neill, who wanted his college to cater for lads who came to college and study and play sport rather than be on the boat to England with no education and chance of being a star. 

UCD soccer identifies, nurtures and develops players and helps give them a start to develop themselves with both a qualification in sport and academia.To use the criteria of spectators is too one-dimensional. 

I am a GAA lover but I can appreciate the beauty and glory of all other sports. I think UCD are an adornment to the league and an example of how a club should be run -- with support from the college to help infrastructure, just as South Dublin Council support Rovers and Madrid City Council Real Madrid. 

I admire the genuine soccer fan in Ireland who supports his local team. I detest the quick-fix investors in clubs who have no affinity to the club in the long run. 

Sport is great, however you define it."