Dylan Murphy makes his case to why the FAI should be encouraging more college teams to follow UCD AFC’s lead by joining the League of Ireland.
Over the winter, the FAI desperately sought to find an eighth team to join the SSE Airtricity League First Division, following the departure of Shamrock Rovers ‘B’.

However very few options emerged during this frantic search before the underwhelming news was announced that Cabinteely F.C. had become the latest addition to the League. 
 
The decision was greeted with astonishment and skepticism within Irish football circles as many bemoaned the addition of another Dublin club that will more than likely fail to draw crowds and struggle to cope with the crippling financial burden of League of Ireland football. 
 
The only other team rumoured to join the division was IT Carlow, who are said to be considering the prospect of applying for membership next season.
 
The advent of another college side to the league would surely be met with disdain from domestic football fans, many of whom are already dismayed by UCD’s presence as a member of the League.
 
Detractors of the Belfield outfit lament their inability to draw fans to their games, whilst most clubs’ lowest crowd of the year typically comes against the students. 
 
What is often forgotten is that UCD provide a valuable service to Irish football by enabling promising young players to pursue both a third-level education and a football career side by side.
 
They have a unique ability to attract players like current Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Paul Corry, who would otherwise be tempted by the lure of English clubs in their teens, and offer them high quality facilities as well as the opportunity to complete an honours degree. 
 
Indeed, UCD develop many talented youngsters, whilst playing attractive football, who later go on to enjoy successful careers with stronger Irish teams elsewhere.
 
With this in mind, surely IT Carlow would offer another valuable resource to footballers who want to complete their education before eventually moving to bigger clubs.
 
The most innate advantage of college teams is the stability they tend to provide. Since UCD’s entry into the League in 1979, they have generally avoided scandal, mismanagement and negative headlines when in that same time period, multiple other clubs have pulled out, the majority for financial difficulties. 
 
UCD’s meek existence irritates many people but in reality their unrelenting prudence is an example for other clubs to follow. Financial problems have blighted domestic football for years; too often have players not been paid and have clubs failed to fulfil their fixtures, yet throughout this time UCD have acted responsibly and existed within their means.
 
People want to spread the League to new counties and attract new fans, but few local clubs have the financial resources to achieve this. Third-level institutions boast budgets in the millions and so the €100,000 necessary to run a First Division team will not overly affect their finances or threaten their existence.
 
In an ideal situation, local clubs capable of establishing a support base would join the League, but few have the capacity and even less the desire to do so. If we want sustainable clubs in new areas perhaps college based teams are the most realistic way to achieve this and at the very least, they are an improvement on reserve teams. 
 
Photo: UCD AFC/ Facebook