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UCD Bowl | Fri 16th April - KO: 7.45pm

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v Athlone Town

UCD Bowl | Fri 26th March - KO: 7.45pm

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v Cobh Ramblers

St Colman's Park | Sat 3rd April - KO: 7.00pm

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v Bray Wanderers

UCD Bowl | Fri 9th April - 7.45pm

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v Cabinteely

UCD Bowl | Fri 16th April - KO: 7.45pm

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DOC's Collingwood Preview

A focused Dave O'Connor looks ahead to the tournament which kicks off todayDOC

Another year, another season, another Collingwood Cup to defend. For many students Semester 2 often revolves around preparing for final exams, thesis submissions and essay deadlines, for myself and a 20 man strong UCD squad, it centres on the Collingwood Cup.

Tonight we will be travelling to Belfast in preparation for our first game of the tournament tomorrow against Mary Immaculate from Limerick, the team we defeated in last year’s final. As with many previous years, UCD travel up to Jordanstown as the tournament favourites, 'the team to beat' and the reigning champions. Not only do we enter the tournament as last defending champions, we enter as being the most successful team in the history of the tournament, a record that we all are determined to extend. We also enter this year’s tournament with a lot to prove and are under no illusions about the task ahead of us. This season we had an disappointing campaign in the colleges and universities league. As a group we all know that we underperformed in crucial games and so the Collingwood represents an opportunity to redeem ourselves on the pitch and prove once again why we are the best and most successful university in the country.

In many ways preparation for the Collingwood Cup began on our first day of pre season with the Airtricity League squad. Since then, we have been working as a group to get fit and focused not only for the League of Ireland season but also for this tournament. The Collingwood squad is unique in that it merges together members of the Leinster Senior League team and the League of Ireland team. One may think that this might present itself as a challenge to the squad as a whole to bond, however this could not be further from the truth. In previous years the merging of Leinster Senior and League of Ireland players has worked tremendously well, everyone gets on incredibly well and to date we have preformed very well on the pitch together. Same again this year please!

As always our preparation for the competition when we arrive in Belfast will be of the highest order. Every year both Diarmuid McNally and Tony Sheridan, and all of the staff, have pulled out all the stops to make us the most focused and well prepared squad in the whole tournament. The hotels, the meals and the team meetings are always extremely well prepared in advance. Maccer and Sherro provide us with everything we need and so we will have no excuses! The ball is in our court.

The Collingwood week is a undoubtedly a marathon rather than a sprint. As has been the case in previous years, the strength and depth of squad is crucial, with 3/4 games in as many days. This stood to us particularly last year when we were able to rotate the squad on a regular basis and still maintain the quality on the pitch. Often many of the games, particularly towards the end of the week, are centred around winning the battle with opposition, rather than out-playing them. Often the team who shows more commitment and who wants it that little bit more will come out on top and so we must travel to Belfast in the right frame of mind, determined to attack the week ahead.

On a personal level, 2013 marks my 4th consecutive Collingwood Cup appearance and this year, being my last year in college, I am more determined than any previous year to bring the cup back home once again. To date I have been lucky enough to be a part of a two triumphant Collingwood Cup Squads, having won the tournament in my first year in Derry, and also last year in Limerick. This year I travel with the squad as one of the most experienced players, something which is new to me. I hope to act as a leader for the team, particularly some of the newer lads. Coming back from a long injury I hope to use the Collingwood as an opportunity to gets games under my belt and as a platform for the start of the Airtricity League on the 8th of March, but don’t get me wrong, the reason I am travelling to Belfast is to win it, nothing less will suffice!

On our day, we have the players to beat any team put before us. As we all know football is never as easy as just showing up. Our preparation is done and the talking is now finished. No excuses. We travel tonight ready for the week ahead, confident and determined to bring the Collingwood back to Belfield once again.

UCD play Mary Immaculate College from Limerick in the 1/4 final tomorrow (Tuesday)in the University of Jordanstown, Belfast.

Updates from the game on twitter @UCDAFC and facebook.com/UCDAFC and you can follow Dave on twitter @daveoc91