UCD defender Tomas Boyle speaks to Brian Strahan of his route into the game, the experiences that have helped shape his career and his thoughts on UCD returning to the top flight.
Brian Strahan: Are you still studying?
Tomas Boyle: No, not studying at the minute. I want to get into coaching when I finish playing so I’m currently doing my B Licence coaching qualification.
BS: Ok, we’ll come back to the coaching. But you grew up in Celbridge?
TB: Yeah, I’ve lived in Celbridge for as long as I can remember. Well I moved out for my 3 years of college in UCD but I’m back living at home now for the time being
BS: And you went to Salesian College (for secondary school)? When it comes to sport they offered a bit of everything?
TB: Yeah Salesians was a great school for its sport. While I was in school the soccer teams were always competing for Leinster and all Ireland titles which was great to be involved in. We won two Leinster senior titles and lost narrowly in two all Ireland finals. I’ll always look back on my time in Salesians and remember the football days with a great bunch of lads.
BS: When did you start playing then for Ballyoulster United?
TB: Ballyoulster was my first schoolboy club. I started playing with them in their academy from the age of 5/6 right up until I was 16. I didn’t play under 14 / under 15 due to injury. Then when I got over the injury I signed for Leixlip United.
BS: Were Ballyoulster progressive in their approach and training?
TB: Ballyoulster is a family friendly club that embodies their club motto ‘A sporting chance for all’. Everyone gets an opportunity at Ballyoulster. I can’t speak highly enough of Ballyoulster as a club and the people involved in coaching and running the club. For me, when I reached a certain age I knew I had to move to a club challenging in the DDSL premier to give me a chance of going to the next level so that’s when I moved to Leixlip United. It’s a shame really that players have to move because there has been some fantastic players coming through Celbridge over the years with a number going across to England and playing in the League Of Ireland now. But the way the academy structure is going in Ballyoulster hopefully they can keep their stronger players and challenge for trophies in the DDSL.
BS: So your move to Leixlip Utd was a logical move How did things progress from there?
TB: I actually went up to the open trials at Cherry Orchard but didn’t make the cut so decided to tryout for Leixlip. I played in a friendly game and must of done something right because they signed after that. At Leixlip we had a great group of lads and were probably behind Belvo and Crumlin the strongest in that age group when I was there. Playing for Leixlip gave me the chance to impress LOI clubs and I was lucky enough to get into a few Irish schools teams as well, so it was great for me personally.
BS: You captained Ireland at schools level yeah?
TB: Yeah I played on the Irish schools team in 5th and 6th year. In 6th year I captained the team to the Centenary Shield with Robbie Benson scoring the winner against England on Sky Sports.
BS: Where did you play then after Leixlip?
TB: After Leixlip, I signed for UCD Under – 20’s and we went the season unbeaten winning the All-Ireland.
BS: Was it after that you played college football in Connecticut?
TB: Yeah after spending two seasons with UCD I was offered the chance to go to America on a scholarship after my leaving cert. It was an opportunity I felt I couldn’t turn down.
BS: What type of level was the football over there
TB:The level was quite good to be fair. Certain conferences would be stronger than others. The players over there are extremely fit. In my university of Hartford we had players from Brazil, Serbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland aswell as Americans so there was a good mix.
BS: Did you learn anything personally from being exposed to different styles of play and different approaches to training and preparation
TB: As a player you try to take in as much as you can and add that to your game. For me, I was always a defender who would throw his head in front of anything but over there I had to adapt my game which improved me as a player. Some of the players over in the states are technically brilliant. In terms of preparation for practice or games we were treated like professionals so there was no excuse not to perform to the best of your ability. They left no stone unturned.
BS: Is that application something you brought back to UCD?
TB: I definitely came back a better player and with the level of coaching at UCD I could only continue to improve.
BS:How important is it, when with a young side, someone of both the calibre and experience of Jason Byrne joins the club?
TB: To sign a player of Jason Byrne’s stature is a huge statement of intent by the club. He may not have the legs he once had but his movement in an around the box is first class. If he gets a sight of goal more often than not it will be in the back of the net. I never liked marking him so I’m glad I won’t have to anymore! ha. He will offer so much both on and off the pitch and I’m sure the younger players will learn so much from him. We probably lacked a bit of experience last year so the manager has gone out and signed 2 or 3 experienced lads who know the league well so fingers crossed that will help us go one step further than last year and gain promotion.
BS: Promotion must be the only option though?
TB: After coming so close last year, I think we are even more determined than ever to get back to the Premier Division. We let ourselves down last year by not getting promoted so this year we need to put that right. As a player you want to test yourself against the best players and the best players are in the Premier Division.