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UCD ready for play-off battle

UCD manager Colin O’Neill has admitted the pressure is on as the SSE Airtricity League First Division reaches an exciting climax.

The Students are one of three sides fighting for one of two play-off spots in the First Division with second-placed Drogheda United and fourth-placed Cobh Ramblers also in the promotion picture.

The Dublin side currently have 45 points, one point ahead of Cobh Ramblers and four behind Drogheda, with games against Shelbourne and Drogheda United to come.

With O’Neill’s side set to face Shelbourne tomorrow night at the UCD Bowl, O’Neill has urged his side to concentrate on themselves.

The Students manager said: “It doesn’t get much better. The pressure is on us as we’re in those play-off spots at the moment and it is up to us to keep ourselves in that picture.

“Two games to go, it is in our hands. We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves as we know two wins put us in the play-off picture. We’ve got to go into each game looking to control the occasion and get the result we need.”

UCD have continued to develop young players with the likes of Jack Watson, Maxi Kouogun, Ryan Swan and captain Gary O’Neill continuing to showcase the UCD production line.

O’Neill believes the club’s willingness to play young talent will always make them an attractive club to join for any young player.

O’Neill continued: “There is a great young core of players here and we’ve got a number of players coming through as well so the future looks really bright for us.

“We’ve got the likes of Jack Ryan who is only 16-years old but has already played in our first-team this season along with Liam Scales and Simon Power.

“UCD is a club which will give young players the platform to go out and play on. The stage is there and if the young players want to come and take the opportunity, the world will be their oyster.

“We’ve also got the advantage that if a player has got an education back-ground, we’ll put them on a scholarship where you can get your degree and play your football at the same time.

“But if you don’t have an education, you still get to play at the highest level of domestic football and with our facilities and the way we play football, they will develop themselves.”

Shelbourne are currently 5th in the First Division in what has been a transitional year for Shels with manager Owen Heary taking on the role in June. The UCD boss is wary of the threat Heary’s side pose with their players playing for their futures.

He added: “Their season probably finished a few weeks ago in terms of the league but Owen (Heary) is trying to put his stamp on what his squad is going to look like next season and deciding on which players to take forward for next season.

“It means his players are beginning to play for contracts and as you get closer towards the end of the season, the penny begins to drop with those players. It’s going to be a really tough game for us on Friday as we’re playing players who are playing for their futures.”

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