WITH the next CAO deadline coming up on May 1, University College Cork's prestigious sports scholarship programme is open for applications.
The UCC Department of Sport and Physical Activity has a long-established scholarship scheme in place which aims to give young athletes the opportunity to progress in their sport while also continuing their studies.
The programme itself is divided into two main strands.
Firstly the Individual Sport Scholarship, which is open to applicants involved in team sports or individual sports other than the core sports although they must be recognised by Sport Ireland.
And secondly, the UCC Core Team Sport Scholarships which covers Hockey, Rugby, Soccer, Gaelic Football, Hurling, Ladies Gaelic Football, and Camogie.
“These are great opportunities for young talented players looking to continue their academics and to then try to have a career in both as well,” insists Greg Yelverton, who is the UCC Soccer Development Officer.
The UEFA Pro Licence holder’s role is, of course, focussing on the soccer side of things at the university but he was keen to stress that education is the most important aspect of this programme.
“That’s the first criteria, they have to be able to get into UCC and once they are in we can look at getting them scholarships that way,” he confirmed.
“That’s an important message. People need to study hard to try and get into UCC through the CAO system and to get the points for the course they want to study.
“The application is open online now (sport.ucc.ie) and for soccer, it closes on the 31st of August after the course offers themselves go out to students around mid-August for a place in UCC.
“Incoming students or current students of UCC can apply. I think we had up to 70 scholars last year across all sports but we have our own soccer scholarship programme and I would manage that for players both male and female.
The supports we offer are quite good so if there are any young aspiring soccer players that want to develop as a young player and also to study a degree in the background as well, this is a great opportunity."
The former Cork City academy coach is hopeful more and more talented youngsters — even if they don’t receive a scholarship — will now consider third level institutions in Ireland as a serious option to continue their soccer career and not just their education.
“The scholarship is there to support those students that do get in and are at a high level,” adds Yelverton.
“It’s a great opportunity for anyone. When you are selected for this you are amongst a cohort of high-performing athletes that are in UCC.
“You have shown great potential in your sport so to be selected is a great opportunity and then it’s up to the individual how much they want to develop and how much they buy into the programme.
“They will have all the supports, then there’s goal setting and performance planning which can be quite beneficial.
“It gives them a focus where they need to be in one year’s time, two year’s time, three year’s time, what way they want to go with their sport and their academics.
“For any young talented player, I think this is the way forward. More and more talented players are staying in Ireland — both female and male — so if they’re staying here they might as well try and get a degree.
“And if they are looking at universities, I think at UCC we are quite good at what we put together as a programme which will benefit any young talented player.
“I feel third levels, and not just UCC, have really established good soccer programmes within their universities across the country.
“People need to look at third levels now when they are making a choice as a talented young soccer player.
“You can really see the benefits of going to some universities that will support you while you are either already playing soccer at the highest level or if you want to get to the highest level. I think this is a fantastic opportunity for any young player.”