Yelverton: UCC soccer is on an upward curve

Yelverton: UCC soccer is on an upward curve
Greg Yelverton. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

THESE are exciting times for sport in UCC.

The College recently captured a treble of hurling, football and soccer victories in landing the Fitzgibbon, Sigerson and Collingwood Cups.

There are 55 clubs across a variety of codes wearing the distinctive Skull and Crossbones and a four-plan strategic plan has been produced to ensure every student at every level is catered for. This will include a revamped complex at Curraheen, close to the Farm, which is primarily used by the soccer teams.

The new sports park will feature a 1,800m running track a 1,300m inner walk, grass and synthetic playing pitches, and a synthetic hockey pitch, along with 297 parking spaces.

Greg Yelverton is the Development Officer for soccer in UCC and also serves as the Irish manager of the Universities representative side. He believes the sport is as strong as it’s ever been on campus, with the Collingwood Cup win, the fourth this decade, a clear reflection of that.

Professor John O'Halloran, Dr Fiona Chambers and Morgan Buckley, Director of Sport in UCC, with the cups. Picture: Provision
Professor John O'Halloran, Dr Fiona Chambers and Morgan Buckley, Director of Sport in UCC, with the cups. Picture: Provision

“Noel Healy, Mick Conroy and Conor Uhl are the coaches of the Collingwood team but as a whole, we work very hard to connect the various teams and to recruit the best players we can.

“We’ve a professionalism to what we do, which leads to success on the pitch and then greater interest in playing for UCC, which starts the cycle again.”

Greg Yelverton with former UCC Director of Sport Declan Kidney.
Greg Yelverton with former UCC Director of Sport Declan Kidney.

The flagship team enter the Collingwood Cup, but there are also panels involved in the Harding Cup and the Crowley Cup, while UCC have club sides contesting for trophies in the Munster Senior League, the AUL and the Business League.

“We’ve been competitive in the Collingwood obviously, but also the College University League, the Harding Cup for freshers and the Crowley Cup. We’ve made the last three Harding Cup finals, without winning it, unfortunately, but it shows the talent coming into First Year.

“Our teams are involved all season long then in the Munster Senior League and the AUL as well, which is the sign of a healthy soccer club.

“They are vital for participation but also providing a pathway to get a place in the Collingwood panel. We’ve qualified coaches over team and training is well structured and that way we keep players interested.”

Picture: INPHO
Picture: INPHO

Current Cork City boss John Caulfield was at the helm for the 2011 Collingwood and given the direct link between City and the Mardyke Arena, he is constantly looking for players who can make the step-up to League of Ireland.

Seán McLoughlin has excelled since his days with the College and the centre-back is touted to switch from Turner’s Cross to England before this season concludes.

Seán McLoughlin and Ben McAuliffe, UCC, battle Edwin Buckley, Rockmount. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Seán McLoughlin and Ben McAuliffe, UCC, battle Edwin Buckley, Rockmount. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

“You look at the UCC model and I think there’s a gap between 19 and senior League of Ireland football and we fit perfectly into that for 18- to 23-year-olds. Seán McLaughlin is a key player for Cork City now but we’ve had also Josh O’Shea, Mike McSweeney, Shane Daly Butz, Seán O’Mahony and Dave Coffey who have pushed on.”

Since transferring from UCD to City playmaker, Dáire O’Connor has looked a class act and pulled on the Irish geansaí for the Colleges and Universities outfit under Yelverton’s watch. He feels there is a holistic approach to the game in UCC, which ensures maximum participation and allows young guns to develop at their own pace.

“The difference between UCC soccer and the GAA is that we have a season-long involvement in the Cork leagues, whereas the UCC hurling and football teams only play in the Cork championships.

“Our players don’t play with their clubs when they’re in UCC but we don’t use graduates, you have a window to play in and all the students appreciate that.”

Even though space is at a premium while using their current facilities, UCC are still very competitive through the various grades.

“Training is well organised on a Tuesday and Thursday in The Farm and all the coaches are UEFA qualified. It’s not just a case of turning up once a week for a kickaround.”

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Once the new sports hub is up and running at Curraheen, Yelverton, who is still a silky midfielder for his home club Leeds, thinks UCC could look at pushing on to another level.

“At the moment our training facilities are fine but upgraded floodlit pitches would allow us to develop more. Long-term there might be a possibility to go League of Ireland in the same way UCD are.

“I believe there is a gap in the market in Munster for a team designed for those younger players finding their feet."

Picture: Sportsfile
Picture: Sportsfile

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