NUI Galway Men’s soccer team emerged victorious at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown over IT Tallaght in the CUFL Division 1 final at the end of February on a score-line of 2-1. Attacking midfielder Conor Barry proved instrumental in securing the win thanks to an eye-catching Man of the Match performance in the number 10 role.
Evan Boyce and Eoin Whelan netted both goals for John “Jumbo” Brennan’s charges in the opening 45 before Tallaght pulled one back in the second half, but NUI Galway had enough in reserve to hold out for the positive result which saw them earn a memorable promotion to the Premier Division.
SIN caught up with Man of the Match Barry, who is also the team’s captain, following his integral role in the terrific outcome.
“We’re absolutely delighted, it was a tough game,” Barry said.
“Tallaght turned up to be fair to them and we did as well, but conditions were atrocious, to be honest, probably the worst conditions I’ve ever played in, between the wind and the rain. The surface was good, it was hard to get the ball down, but when we did we played well and eventually got the two goals and took them very well and got the win in the end.”
Barry was singled out as ‘one to watch’ for the Collingwood Cup by thirdlevelfootball.ie and had a big task in battling against the blustery conditions which were not at all conducive to neat, passing football. Providing a creative role in a central position, he was successful in allowing his flair a decent platform, but remained coy in giving himself too much praise.
“We all played very well, we had to play as a team – we had to be compact and be together because of the conditions,” he commented.
“To be honest, anyone could have picked up the Man of the Match award because we all played well, but on the day whenever I got on the ball I tried to be composed on it. Because a lot of the ball was in the air, I tried to get it on the ground and keep it on the ground.”
It was a tactic that paid dividends for the Corribsiders, and proves that this side are adaptable to conditions and surfaces. Moreover, it shows that they have earned their promotion through sophisticated football, and are not keen to rely on long balls. With the majority of the squad here to stay for next season, too, we should see more of the same.
“Next season we’re only missing two or three from this year’s squad you could say,” Barry explains.
“Two of our centre midfielders are missing from the starting XI and everyone else is available for next year, so it’s exciting times going into next season especially with, hopefully, some new first years coming in that can add some quality.
“We’re going into the Premier Division next season playing the likes of UCD and UCC so they are the teams you want to be playing week in, week out,” he added.
Barry is set to head into final year come September and is currently studying for end-of-semester exams, but the 21-year-old also plays League of Ireland football with Athlone Town in the SSE Airtricity League First Division.
So, the Portumna native is now fully focused on helping them earn promotion to the top tier. Already, the midlands club have had an excellent start to the 2017 season with two wins from two at the time of publication over Waterford FC and Wexford FC.
“To be fair, my performances have been decent with the college. We had a very good Collingwood [Cup], I did well in that as well and it was positive going into the final and now that the college season is over, we’re concentrating now on the League of Ireland.
“We’re looking forward to the season ahead, it’s a big season for Athlone Town.”
-By Trevor Murray
Image from @thirdlevelfootb on Twitter.