University College Dublin Association Football Club / Cumann Sacar Choláiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath

  • City: Belfield, Dublin 4 / Baile Átha Cliath 4
  • Founded: 1895 (as Catholic University Medical School)
  • Ground: UCD Bowl (3,000)
  • Nicknames: The Students; College
  • Colours: Sky blue shirts with navy blue sleeves and trim, navy blue shorts, and sky blue socks with navy blue trim.
  • 2023 League: League of Ireland Premier Division
  • Club Website: https://www.ucdfc.ie/
  • Club Twitter: @UCDAFC


  • Best League Finish: 4th in the League of Ireland Premier Division (2 times)
  • Best FAI Cup Finish: Winners (1983-84)

[NOTE: All honours below are for just the senior first team]

  • FAI Cup
    • Winners (1): 1983-84
  • FAI Super Cup
    • Winners (1): 2000-01
  • League of Ireland First Division
    • Champions (3): 1994-95, 2009, 2018
  • League of Ireland First Division Shield
    • Winners (2): 1991-92, 1994-95
  • Leinster Senior Cup
    • Winners (3): 1980-81, 1994-95, 1995-96
  • FAI Intermediate Cup
    • Winners (1): 1944-45
  • Irish Intermediate Cup
    • Winners (1): 1914-15

University College Dublin Association Football Club / Cumann Sacar Choláiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath, more commonly referred to as UCD AFC or just UCD, is the football team of the University College Dublin and currently playing in the League of Ireland Premier Division, the top tier in the Irish football pyramid. The club is based in the Dublin suburb of Belfield, situated in the municipality of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown and located to the southeast of the nation’s capital. UCD AFC currently plays their home games at the 3,000-capacity, 1,500-seater UCD Bowl (also known as the Belfield Bowl) which is located in the north of the vast UCD campus that occupies most of Belfield and next to the National Hockey Stadium. Originally the football club played for most of its history at Belfield Park but moved to the Bowl in 2007 as their original ground did not meet the requirements of UEFA licensing for the League of Ireland. The football club shares their new ground with the university’s rugby union team, whilst it has also hosted training sessions for the Irish national rugby union team. In addition, the UCD Bowl was also one of the host venues for the 2017 Women’s Rugby (Union) World Cup, hosting nearly half of the group phase games during the tournament.

The football team was founded in 1895 as the Catholic University Medical School Football Club, and began playing regular games in the following year with the first XI playing against other universities whilst the second XI entered outside competitions. The side then became founding members of the Leinster Junior League in 1896 and changed their name to the current one in 1908 when the new university annexed the medical school. UCD won the inaugural Collingwood Cup (the intervarsities football competition) in 1914 before adding the Irish Intermediate Cup the following year when they defeated Portadown 2-1 in a replay. Following Irish independence, they were invited to join the new League of Ireland (LoI) in 1922 but had to reject the invitation due to the club being unable to field a team in September as the academic year did not start until October. As a result, UCD played the majority of its early history outside of the League of Ireland, with one of the club’s highlights during this period being an FAI Intermediate Cup victory in 1945 when they defeated future LoI members Cobh Ramblers 4-2 in the final.

It wouldn’t be until 1979 when the university team finally joined the LoI after having played in the LoI ‘B’ Division for the past nine years prior. The amateur club initially struggled in the league after their election, never finishing higher than twelfth in the sixteen-team league. However, their performances would improve from 1983 onwards when the club turned semi-professional, allowing players from outside of the university to play for the club, which is still the situation today albeit the reality is that most of the players are either students or ex-students from the university. The change in status enabled the club’s crowning glory in the following year when they lifted the 1984 FAI Cup after being local rivals Shamrock Rovers 2-1 following a replay. This enabled the Students to play in European competitions for the first time by playing in the now-defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, where they were drawn against eventual champions Everton. Remarkably, UCD managed a goalless draw in the first home leg, before only being defeated by a single goal in the second leg – a remarkable achievement against one of Europe’s best teams at that time. The 1984-85 season also saw UCD finish in fourth position in the league, their highest-ever league finish. Alas, following that excellent campaign, financial difficulties forced the club to release many of their best players and they were relegated to the First Division in the following season.

Since their first relegation in 1986, the club has been somewhat of a ‘yo-yo club’ in Irish football, often bouncing between the two leagues of the LoI, with their longest tenure in one of the leagues being a nine-season stint in the Premier Division between 1995-96 and 2003. It was during this period that UCD equalled their best-ever league finish of fourth in the 1999-2000 season, and saw them qualify for the following season’s UEFA Intertoto Cup. There they came up against Bulgarian side Velbazhd Kyustendil and managed to draw with the side 3-3 on aggregate, but sadly exited the competition on away goals after the home leg ended in a 3-3 tie. UCD experienced another European adventure in 2015 whilst being a second-tier club. Despite being relegated at the end of the 2014 LoI Premier Division season, they qualified for 2015-16 UEFA Europa League via the Fair Play Award, and in the first qualifying round of the competition they were drawn against Luxembourgish side F91 Dudelange. Despite competing in the First Division that year, they managed to overcome their opponents on away goals after drawing 2-2 on aggregate, with their 1-2 loss in the away leg proving crucial. Alas, in the second qualifying round, they were heavily beaten 1-6 over the two legs by Slovakian powerhouses Slovan Bratislava.

For the upcoming 2023 season, UCD AFC will be competing in the LoI Premier Division for the second consecutive season. They gained promotion back to the top flight in November 2021 after winning the Promotion/Relegation playoff against Waterford (who had finished ninth in the Premier Division that year) 2-1. Despite not achieving their first victory until their fifteenth league game, the club narrowly avoided automatic relegation in the 2022 season when they finished in ninth position and six points ahead of bottom-placed club Finn Harps. Once again, the Students would be taking part in the Promotion/Relegation playoff, this time trying to defend their Premier Division spot, and would again be the masters of the one-off end-of-season game. In a replay of the previous season’s playoff final, UCD defeated the First Division playoff finalists Waterford by a single goal from Tom Lonergan to confirm their position in the top flight.

To talk about a club who are unique in the League of Ireland for representing the capital’s main university, and has been the FAI Cup winners on one occasion, we spoke to the excellent University College Dublin AFC Supporters Club (UCD Fans). As their name suggests, they are the official supporters club for UCD AFC and will often report on news, results, and all things coming from the university’s football clubs on their website and social media channels. To find out more about the UCD Fans, their website and social media channel links can be found below:

Q. Who would you say is University College Dublin AFC’s best player, and coach/manager of all time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Dr. Tony “The Doc” O’Neill was UCD AFC’s long-time general manager/administrator who brought UCD from the League of Ireland ‘B’ Division (reserve division) into the League of Ireland Senior Division in the 1979-1980 season [he stayed as General Manager of the club until his untimely death in October 1999]. He, along with our long-time manager Theo Dunne [who managed the club in two spells, 1983-90 and 1994-99], introduced a sponsored scholarship model to the first team. Tayto Crisps was the first sponsor of Keith Dignam, whose son now plays for the UCD AFC Premier Division side (and will be mentioned in the next question). The vast majority of UCD Premier Division players are now scholarship players.

Currently, the hands-on Chair is Tony Sheridan and he has a lot of respect throughout the leagues. Both he and Diarmuid McNally, the Director of Football/Coach, have re-introduced UCD teams into the eastern province Leinster Senior League, fielding three teams at Intermediate and Junior (adult) environments. Along with the Senior League of Ireland team, the club plays in the winter university league and in historic university cup competitions.

Tony McDonnell

The best player would be Tony McDonnell [centre-back or central midfielder] who played for UCD for over 13 years [between 1994 and 2007], and was captain of the side for most of that time. He only played for The Students in his senior career [making 361 appearances and having the second-highest appearance total in the club’s history].

Ensemble, the team that was gathered in the early-1980s of Students and LoI veterans that lifted the FAI Senior Cup in a replay in 1984, played a 0-0 result at Tolka Park and then a 0-1 loss at Goodison Park against Everton FC in September/October 1984, and then finished fourth in the League of Ireland 1984/85. Goalie Alan O’Neill [who played for UCD between 1983 and 1985, and made nearly 550 appearances in total for Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk, and Sligo Rovers during his career], Mark O’Sullivan, Ken O’Doherty [midfielder who played for UCD between 1980 and 1985 before later playing for Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town], Keith Dignam, Aidan Reynolds, Robbie Gaffney [winger who played for UCD between 1983 and 1986, later playing for Shelbourne, St. Patrick’s Athletic, and Kilkenny City], and Joe Hanrahan [forward who played for UCD between 1981 and 1985 before moving to Manchester United but later played for a number of LoI clubs] were the spine throughout the team. But all players are heroes at Belfield.

Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at the club and why?

Mark Dignam
[IMAGE: UCD AFC Website]

Currently, it’s defender/midfielder Mark Dignam, At 23 years old, he’s one of the veteran players at Belfield. Mark reads the play very well during the matches, often breaking up opposing attacks and starting up UCD attacks. Unsurprisingly, he is involved in a large number of goals for the side, and scores important goals like in the example below when he scored against Shelbourne in October 2022:

Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?

Jack Keaney
[IMAGE: UCD AFC Website]

As UCD AFC field mostly under-graduates aged between 17 to 24 years old, the whole squad can be considered ‘young’, ‘development’ and ‘up-and-coming’. Captain Jack Keaney [23 years old] signed from Sligo Rovers in 2019, fellow central defender Sam Todd [24 years old], and midfielder Alex Nolan [19 years old] are three great players to watch. UCD fans will be hoping they continue with The Students for many seasons to come.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ for the club in both the past and present squads?

Evan Osam
[IMAGE: UCD AFC Website]

A cult hero in past squads would be Ciaran Kavanagh who made the most league appearances for UCD [with 383 appearances between 1990 and 2002]. A diminutive midfielder who specialized in mazy dribbles, especially when surrounded by opposing players.

From the current squad, it would have to be full-back Evan Osam. He has suffered two season-long injuries already at UCD, yet still puts his body on the line for UCD, and is only 25 years old.

Q. Who would you regard as UCD’s biggest or historical rivals?

The #DodderDerby with Shamrock Rovers. The river Dodder connects UCD with Shamrock Rovers’ previous and current hinterlands.

Previously the near neighbours, UCD‘s relationship with Shamrock Rovers is similar to that of Fulham FC’s relationship with Chelsea FC when Chelsea steals Fulham players.

Another rival is Home Farm, a huge schools club on the other side of Dublin. Each club have a small fan base and prides itself on the development of footballers. Originally. the senior players previously met in the League of Ireland, however nowadays compete against each other in the Leinster Senior League.

Q. Looking at the club’s history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance in your opinion?

The obvious standard outs are the 1983/84 FAI Cup win, and the 1984/85 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup 1st round tie with Everton where UCD lost 1-0 on aggregate and finished in 4th position in the senior division during the same season.

The 1984-85 League of Ireland table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

Otherwise, it’s the club continuously playing in Premier Division. Many UCD Fans consider the club a Premier Division club. There is no pyramid-shaped structure in Men’s Irish Football, the shape is four separate football environments. Junior (adult), University, Senior, and Intermediate #JUSI. UCD AFC and UCD as a university team participate/compete in all four environments. This is a big deal. While other clubs have one team, UCD has several. The club’s continuous achievement is providing a place for young football talent to progress.

Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this past season has gone?

There is another Premier Division season incoming, so the mood is very positive and upbeat, and where we want to be. In recent seasons, the club has had to reach to a younger and younger age range. Mount Merrion Youths FC, who provides UCD with academy players, is supplemented with some U19 and U17 transfers. In the previous five seasons, there have been two promotions, and two Premier Division seasons. So the agony and ecstasy are in full supply for the League of Ireland. UCD won the historic Collingwood Cup for the 48th time in its history, the Third Level/University short cup tournament, which was first played in 1914.

The 2022 League of Ireland Premier Division table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the club?

The best thing is knowing that UCD fans are watching players at the beginning of their senior careers and we’ll be still following their careers over a decade from now and being delighted with their achievements.

The worst thing is the deliberate misrepresentation of the club. The “why are they here?” articles in the press and away match programmes. “UCD have no fans” is uttered and believed. The first game of the 2022 season, the away programme from Shamrock Rovers had a “why are they here?” article. In April 2022, after a 7-1 defeat away to Derry, the President of the Soccer Writers of Ireland a popular RTÉ broadcaster and presenter Tony O’Donoghue insisted that UCD AFC shouldn’t be in the League (league mind, not just Premier Division). Because there is no self-criticism in Irish Soccer Broadcasting, the response of SWI members was that they don’t agree with Tony’s “opinion”. Things like facts, merit, and three points for a win were forgotten about. The UCD club and UCD Supporters Groups have to put in their resources to challenge/oppose these ‘ideas’. Tony is entitled to his own opinions, but he’s not entitled to his own facts. The robust defence of meritocracy, challenging stale notions that UCD have no fans continues. It’s bad because there are UCD fans that don’t go to some fixtures because they don’t feel secure.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of UCD AFC?

Firstly, to continue to field teams in the four football environments of Irish Football. Secondly, to continue to participate/compete in the Premier Division of the League of Ireland, so that our position makes up a UCD player’s mind to stay with the club. Finally, to continue to get to bring fans to football, watch games, and, most importantly, enjoy football.

A massive thank you to Stephen from the University College Dublin AFC Supporters Club for answering our questions on the League of Ireland Premier Division side University College Dublin AFC. Remember you can find their excellent blogsite and social media accounts in the links towards the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.


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