Are UCD's 2009 league winners the best ever First Division side?

Article by Andrew Dempsey - @AndrewDempsey2

The Class of 2009 UCD -  Where are they now?

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With 2018 shaping up to be one of the most competitive First Division’s in recent memory, Between the Stripes reporter, Andrew Dempsey took a trip down memory lane looking back on the famous UCD First Division winning side of 2009, as Martin Russell led his troops to the Promised Land of Premier Division football. With the likes of Andy Boyle, Ronan Finn and David McMillan all lining out for the Students back in ’09, it will arguably go down as one of the most exciting First Division team in history.  

Goalkeepers

Gerard Barron

Having been awarded a contract at Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic back in 2006, Barron fought it out with fellow shot-stopper, Billy Brennan for the spot in between the sticks as Martin Russell’s all-conquering side swept all before them in a fantastic year for the Students up at Belfield. At the end of the 2014 campaign, Barron decided to call time on his playing days and is now currently working as Goalkeeping Coach at UCD.

Billy Brennan

Brennan largely played second fiddle to Ger Barron at UCD but did manage to offer some staunch opposition to Barron’s firm grip on the number one jersey at the UCD goal. After being part of the successful UCD side of 2009, Brennan had a real break through year in 2010, keeping ten clean sheets in twenty-nine league apperances, while also playing in all of UCD AFC's cup matches. The Kilkenny native eventually embarked on a journey up North, where the now 32-year-old enjoyed stints at Lisburn Distillery, Portadown and Larne in the Northern Irish Football League.

Cian Byrne

Cian Byrne rarely made his way into the UCD side of 2009, as the Drogheda native played as backup to both Billy Brennan and Ger Barron whilst at the “Students”. However, the then 20-year-old custodian did feature in the odd cup competition for Martin Russell’s men but he soon departed the Belfield outfit at the end of the 2010 season to join hometown club, Drogheda United as he spent a year at United Park with Mick Cooke.

Defenders

Andy Boyle

Andy Boyle is probably one of the most recognisable players on this list and he was an important component of the UCD machine that were such a mightily impressive outfit in 2009. Since winning the First Division back in 2009, Boyle went on to win all of Irish football’s major honours at Dundalk before he sealed a well-deserved move over to Preston North End, off the back of a fantastic European run for the “Lilywhites”. Since his move across the pond in 2016, Boyle has gone on to make his Ireland debut and is currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers in League One.  

Brian Shortall

Shortall, or “Shorty” as he was affectionately known by the small legion of UCD support at the Belfield Bowl, spent six years of his footballing education in Dublin 4 where he forged his way into a strong UCD side’s starting eleven. Despite being Ciaran Nangle’s understudy for much of that season, Shortall did manage to make a name for himself amongst League of Ireland circles having had stints with St Patrick’s Athletic, Athlone Town and Shelbourne after leaving the “Students”. However, injuries were to be the detriment of Shortall’s playing career as he was forced to hang up his playing boots in 2016.   

Sean Harding

Harding spent six years at Crumlin United before joining Martin Russell’s UCD side in 2009. The Dubliner established himself as a key cog in the wheel for the “Students” eventual triumphant campaign. After three years starring in the first-team, Harding emigrated to Australia and not before long, returned home to have stints with both Bray Wanderers and Limerick before returning to childhood club, Crumlin United.

Michael Kelly

Kelly joined “College” from St Kevin’s Boys on a footballing scholarship and was a part of Martin Russell’s machine on their way to First Division glory in 2009. Kelly left the boys from Belfield in 2010 to move to Australia but soon returned home, having stints with Shamrock Rovers “B” and Shelbourne, before the Dubliner dropped out of League of Ireland for the time being after joining Leinster Senior League side, Killester United in 2016.

Luke Hardy

Englishman Luke Hardy joined UCD at the start of the 2009 First Division season before leaving the “Students” halfway through the campaign to join up with Athlone Town, in what was a brief stay at Belfield having joined the club from fellow First Division side, Longford Town. The now 36-year-old, will always have the honour of playing UEFA Cup football for Welsh side Carmarthen Town against both Longford Town and Danish giants, Copenhagen.

Brian Connaughton

Brian Connaughton joined UCD from schoolboy’s club, Lourdes Celtic in 2009 and failed to make a single competitive appearance for the “Students” in his three-year spell at Belfield, having only played a handful of friendly games for Martin Russell’s men. Connaughton has since gone on trial at Shelbourne in 2016 but was not offered a contract by the “Reds”.

Mick Leahy

Having played underage football with well renowned Dublin schoolboy side Belvedere, Leahy joined “College” at the start of the 2009 season where he became part of the triumphant First Division winning side of 2009. Since then, Leahy has gone on to play in the Europa League with UCD whilst also enjoying spells at St Patrick’s Athletic, Limerick and Sligo Rovers since 2013. Mick is now currently plying his trade at St Patrick’s Athletic for Liam Buckley’s “Supersaints”.  

Gareth Matthews

Having joined UCD from English side Norwich City in 2008, much was expected of Matthews at Belfield and he duly delivered in his time with the part-timers in his breakthrough year of 2009, becoming a key member of Russell’s side as they lifted the First Division crown. Since his departure at the end of the 2010 campaign, Matthews enjoyed a two-year spell at Shelbourne before returning to Belfield in 2013, as he spent his last two playing years in the League of Ireland with the “Students”. After leaving league football, Matthews has since gone on to play for Junior club St Patrick’s CY in Dublin.

Evan McMillan

Evan McMillan is another member of that special 2009 team that stands out for a variety of reasons. McMillan was one of the first names on the UCD team sheet during his spell at the Belfield Bowl and played alongside his brother Dave, who was also a big part of UCD’s success in 2009. Since departing UCD in 2010, McMillan has since returned twice as both player and coach whilst having spells at Bohemians, St Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers in the Premier Division. Evan has since departed UCD due to “work commitments” having been replaced by current UCD assistant manager, Ian Ryan.

Midfielders

John Dineen

Cork native, John Dineen joined UCD in 2009 having enjoyed a one-year spell at Cork City before making the move up to the Capital to be a part of Martin Russell’s triumphant First Division winning side. However, Dineen’s spell at Belfield was to be short-lived as he returned to Cork in 2010, joining forces with new City manager Tommy Dunne in 2010, as the “Rebel Army” began their rebuilding process after a financial capitulation in the year previous. Dineen is now currently at Cobh Ramblers and made his long-awaited return to League of Ireland football last Saturday against Longford Town.

Greg Bolger

Greg Bolger is arguably one of the best midfielders to ever grace the League of Ireland and the “College” was exactly where he began to study his trade. Bolger, then 21, didn’t really feature too much but soon came of age in 2010 at the Belfield Bowl as he starred for Martin Russell’s men on their return to the Premier Division. Bolger since went on to enjoy spells at Sporting Fingal, Dundalk, St Patrick’s Athletic and most recently, Cork City before the Dubliner joined up Stephen Bradley’s Shamrock Rovers side for 2018.  

Keith Ward

Current Bohemians star, Keith Ward made 24 appearances for Martin Russell’s men as the fresh faced 18-year-old starred in UCD’s first First Division title win since 1995. Ward, who predominantly played on the wing for the “Students”, was a constant thorn in fellow First Division defences as he helped his side to glory in 2009. Since departing Belfield in 2010, Ward has had a relatively successful spell in the League of Ireland with Dundalk, Sligo Rovers and Derry City before Ward joined up with Keith Long at Bohemians for a second time at Dalymount Park.

James Timmons

Now 37 years of age, James Timmons enjoyed his most successful season as a League of Ireland player in 2009 with UCD. Mainly part of the clubs Leinster Senior League outfit, Timmons also lined out for the now defunct Kilkenny City as well as Australian side Melbourne Knights.

Chris Mulhall

Chris Mulhall is another League of Ireland stalwart on this list having played for as many as six League of Ireland clubs to date in his 13-year stint in the league. However, it was at UCD in 2009 where Mulhall really did come of age, asserting himself as a key member of the UCD side that went on to win the league that season. Now at Longford Town, Mulhall will be looking to call back on his experience of 2009 and help to lead Neale Fenn and Longford Town to glory in arguably the most competitive First Division ever.

Ronan Finn

Having began his spell at UCD in 2005, Finn had to wait until the 2009 campaign to be handed over the captain’s armband and the role seemed to suit the midfield star perfectly as “Finner” racked up, not only the First Division title, but also collected the First Division Player of the Year crown that season also. Now captain at Shamrock Rovers, Finn has enjoyed spells at both Sporting Fingal and Dundalk since his Belfield days.  

Ciaran Nangle

Ciaran Nangle joined UCD at the start of the victorious 2009 season and made 79 subsequent appearances for the “Students” in his three-year spell at the UCD Bowl. Having helped to ensure UCD’s Premier Division safety in 2012, Nangle made the cross-city move to Bohemians on Dublin’s Northside, where he joined up with Aaron Callaghan for two years. Since his league of Ireland days, Nangle has lined out for Leinster Senior League Sides Bluebell United and Crumlin United.

Robbie Creevy

A graduate of the mightily-impressive Cherry Orchard schoolboy’s system, Robbie Creevy joined Shamrock Rovers in 2007 where he lined out for the Hoops Under-21 side. After failing to make the grade at Rovers, Creevy joined UCD in 2009 and starred for Martin Russell’s men in their triumphant title-winning success. Creevy lined out for the “Students” for a further five campaigns before having spells at both Bray Wanderers and Bohemians. Creevy has since stepped away from League of Ireland football to focus on work commitments.

Forwards

John Reilly

John Reilly played a bit-part role for UCD, as the “Students” went on to lift the 2009 First Division title. Reilly, then 26, had spells at Longford Town, Kildare County and Monaghan United before joining UCD in 2008, as Pete Mahon’s side suffered relegation to the second-tier of Irish football. Following his league title success at Belfield, Reilly soon emigrated to Canada before returning to Monaghan United in 2011 and stayed with the “Mons” until their eventual demise in 2012. Most recently, Reilly lined out for Leinster Senior League side St Mochta’s in the 2014 FAI Cup.

Ciaran Kilduff

Ciaran Kilduff is another member of that UCD side of 2009 that has gone on to make a very good name for himself since his breakthrough year at the Belfield Bowl. “Killer” racked up 16 goals in only 31 games for Martin Russell’s men while he was on loan from Shamrock Rovers. Kilduff then lined out for UCD on their return to the Premier before returning to Rovers in 2011. Kilduff then joined Cork City on loan before lining out for both St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk, where the Dubliner has won all Irish domestic football has to offer. UCD’s star of 2009 has now made his way to NASL side Jacksonville Armada in the USA.

David McMillan

David McMillan joined UCD in 2008 and had to wait until the 2009 campaign before he could properly establish himself within the UCD first-team. Establish himself he did, as McMillan struck up a lethal bond with Ciaran Kilduff, which helped Martin Russell’s men on their way to First Division glory. Now at Scottish side St Johnstone, McMillan lined out for Sligo Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk where the qualified architect won all the domestic Irish game has to offer.  

Peter McMahon

English native Peter McMahon joined UCD on a footballing scholarship in 2009 and featured for the “Students” in an eighteen-month spell. McMahon rarely featured for the “Boys in Blue” as both Ciaran Kilduff and David McMillan struck up an incredible bond up top for “College”. Since his departure in 2010, McMahon has played for Drogheda United, Bohemians and Portadown. The Watford man is now currently plying his trade at NIFL side Glentoran.

Evan Connolly

Claremorris native Evan Connolly joined UCD in 2009 from Longford Town, having been awarded a footballing scholarship at the Belfield Bowl. However, Connolly’s stay at Belfield was brief as he returned home to play for local side Mervue United, when they were lining out in the League of Ireland. Connolly finished his League of Ireland career at the end of the 2011 campaign with Mervue United only remaining in the First Division for another two seasons before both United and fellow Galway side, Salthill Devon were replaced in the League of Ireland by reformed, Galway United.

Graham Rusk

Graham Rusk was another victim of that dynamic duo of Ciaran Kilduff and Dave McMillan as the then 20-year-old, rarely featured for Martin Russell’s side in 2009. Rusk spent three more years at the Belfield Bowl before making a move to Mick Cooke’s Drogheda United in 2012. After a two-year spell at United Park, Rusk moved to Athlone, where he suffered relegation for the first time in his League of Ireland career. Since then, Rusk has most recently lined out for Leinster Senior League side, Portmarnock AFC.

Gavin Falconer

Gavin Falconer is the final member of the 28-man UCD side that went on to win the First Division in 2009 under Martin Russell. Falconer played a limited role for the “Students” with only two appearances under his belt. Falconer soon moved on to join Waterford United  but will always have the privilege of saying he was part of the truly historic UCD’s squad of 2009.