Students have no fear of bohs
Russell says youthful UCD won't be fazed by champs
WITH an average age of 21 and three teenagers in the team, it's one of the youngest teams in top-flight football around the leagues of Europe at the moment.
But UCD manager Martin Russell wouldn't change a thing about his baby-faced side as they prepare for their stiffest test in a long time at home to Bohemians tonight.
The league champions are unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions since last October and their defeat to Shamrock Rovers, as Pat Fenlon's new-look side have started the new season with two wins and a draw from three matches.
Yet Russell says that his side have no fears about welcoming Bohs to the Belfield Bowl this evening. "I don't think my lads are the kind of players who fear anyone or anything," said Russell, now in his second full season as UCD manager, having led them to a Division One title success last season.
"That's not to say that they are cocky and don't respect people -- of course they respect clubs like Bohemians, but they are a great bunch of lads, with a real hunger and desire to do well in the game and do well for the club.
"It's a very young team here, the oldest player is 24 and I think seven or eight of them are 21 or under. Of course, there can be a downside to having so many young players as they don't have the same level of experience as the players at the bigger clubs. But, to me, the positives from having so many youngsters far outweigh any negatives.
"To me, hunger is a huge element in football and this group of UCD players are really hungry to succeed, that's why they are looking forward to this game against Bohs tonight, they're not worried about playing the champions.
"They performed superbly by winning the Division One title last season, and thankfully we were able to keep hold of most of the players we wanted, the only one we really lost from last year was Ronan Finn who wanted to go to Sporting Fingal.
"I think we are strong as a group because a lot of them have grown up together here, they are getting an education here at the college as well as playing in the Premier Division. They are determined to be successful and hopefully we can do something this season," added Russell.
At the start of the season UCD were 100/1 outsiders to win the Premier Division, only Galway United deemed to be worse off in the eyes of the bookies. But College are used to that: they were rated at 8/1 to win the First Division last season but finished top, ahead of favourites Shelbourne and Sporting Fingal.
And UCD have started the season well, opening their Premier Division campaign with a stunning 3-0 win away to Drogheda United. "It was a good start, but that's all it was, a start," said Russell.
"We had worked hard in pre-season and the timing of it all wasn't ideal as we had some of our players playing in the Collingwood Cup just before the league season started, but we got our rewards against Drogheda.
"We have always had a positive approach to the game here at this club. We didn't go to Drogheda and put men behind the ball to grind out a draw, we went for it and got a good win. But it was just one game and one win, we have to start again now tonight against Bohemians, who will be very tough opposition.
"People have said that Bohs have been slow to start the season and haven't played that well yet but they have won two games and reached the Setanta Cup finals so that's the sign of a good team, when they can win games without playing all that well," added Russell.
Bohs boss Pat Fenlon admitted Saturday's 1-1 draw at home to Glentoran was a mixed bag. "There was some good stuff and some that was not so good. It was like the Sporting Fingal performance, a real early season game," he said.
The Bohs boss has a very strong hand coming into the UCD game with Jason McGuinness, who took a knock in the Glentoran match, the only absentee.