Star-studded UCD ready to end Sigerson Cup drought
With each passing year, the weight of history lies heavier on UCD.
It's 20 years now since they last won the Independent.ie Sigerson Cup. Since 1996, All-Stars and All-Ireland winners have tried - and failed - to get the Belfield outfit over the line. It's a remarkable run for a college that still sits ten titles clear at the top of the roll of honour.
2016 holds even more significance. This weekend's finals in Jordanstown is the first running of the competition since the passing of Dave Billings.
His influence on those who came through the college's GAA program was huge. Tipperary's Jimmy Feehan is part of the UCD Sigerson set-up an was among the nine players who came together to pay tribute to Billings before last year's All-Ireland U-21 semi-final between the Premier county and Dublin.
And he's aware of the significance of this year's competition to the university.
"Everyone knows what it would have meant to Davy and how the GAA really was his life in UCD and how he brought on an awful lot of players," he said.
"Any player who ever went to him was given open arms and he'd do as much as he could to help you.
"I know Dave was a huge influence in UCD but you have to create your own history as well, you can't be solely focused on one thing. It would be a special thing to win it alright though."
UCD go into the weekend as favourites as they face rank outsiders UL in the semi-final this afternoon. Manager John Divilly has an impressive array of established stars to pull from including Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey, Mick Fitzsimons, Paul Mannion and John Heslin, while they showed an ability to win tough games when seeing off UCC in the Mardyke.
They take on a UL side who don't have anything like the established names of UCD but they did take down a suspension-hit Queens in the semi-final. Still, UCD will be expected to make a first final appearance since 2003.
The other semi-final will attract more interest in the Independent.ie sponsored competition when reigning champions DCU take on hosts UUJ.
Niall Moyna's side have lost a few key players since last year but they can still call on Colm Begley, Mickey Quinn and Young Footballer of the Year Diarmuid O'Connor as they look to retain the competition for the first time in their history.
UUJ, who include Martin McHugh among their selectors, also have a heavyweight squad that features Paddy McBrearty, Kieran Hughes and McHugh's son Ryan. That squad, combined with home advantage, make them best placed to tackle UCD.