HAPPY DAYS UCD's Harvey O'Brien (left) and fellow Mayo native, Paul Doyle.
“IT was the best night of my life on a football pitch.”
These were the words of Harvey O’Brien from Claremorris, one of two Mayo men on the Richmond Park pitch on Friday night when UCD came from behind to beat Waterford and secure Premier Division football for next season.
Waterford have had a traumatic season and relegation was nearly inevitable. You can’t sack your manager on Tuesday and realistically expect to win a survival play-off on Friday.
Owner Richard Forrest felt he was ‘given an ultimatum’ and sufficiently ‘backed into a corner’ to dismiss manager Mark Bircham three days before their most important game of the season.
Bircham’s side of the story is that Forrest bought the club so his son could play professional football, and that he told the owner that young Forrest would neither be on the pitch nor the bench for Friday’s decider, and that he wouldn’t be dictated-to.
Bircham’s stop-gap replacement, Ian Hendon, did the best he could. But when a team is second from the bottom, winning doesn’t come as easy as it does when you are further up the table.
The Blues did take the lead, but once their nerves settled, UCD took control of the match with two goals from Colin Whelan, bringing his season-total to 26. That’s the kind of firepower a team needs to make progress.
“It was a brilliant experience,” Harvey O’Brien told The Mayo News. “We were a bit shaky at first, but we always believed we could win it and we did in the end.”
The other Mayo man on show, Paul Doyle from Westport, was influential in the winning goal of what will be his final match for the club.
“I’ve the degree finished, so that’s it,” said Paul. “I want to stay in the game so we’ll wait and see what happens now.”
Doyle remains tight-lipped about his future, but The Mayo News understands that at least one Dublin club is anxious to collect his autograph.
“Paul has been fantastic for UCD over the past few years,” manager Andy Myler told The Mayo News. “He’s been the mainstay of our team and the real creative influence that we had in the team this season. He leads the league this year in assists, but more important than that, Paul is a real positive influence in the dressing room and the club. And a real respected buddy to his team-mates and the staff, a really good guy. On top of that, Paul is an excellent technical player and will have no difficulty getting another club.”
Elsewhere, St Patrick’s Athletic won the FAI Cup, defeating Bohemians on penalties after extra time on Sunday. The win means that Bohola native, John Mountney, picked up his fourth FAI Cup winners’ medal, getting the other three with Dundalk.