UCD senior football manager John Divilly would not lose any sleep if the Leinster Council were to follow Munster’s example and stop inviting third level teams into their pre-season competitions.

The McGrath Cup and Munster Senior Hurling League began last weekend with no colleges or universities involved, while this week, Sligo manager Niall Carew questioned why counties are denied access to their student players.

A former NUI Maynooth manager like Carew, Divilly’s UCD side are still in the frame to make the O’Byrne Cup semi-finals. They face Carlow on Sunday but he’s indifferent about their participation in the competition.

“Should colleges be in it? I wouldn’t lose any sleep if we weren’t involved,” said the former Galway defender.

“I wouldn’t fight it if we were told we couldn’t play in it anymore. If we weren’t, we’d still arrange a few challenge games for ourselves. It’s not on our priority list to win the O’Byrne Cup. We want to be competitive in it but we also want to ensure everyone in our squad gets a game or a game and a half.

“I saw both sides of it when I was in charge of Maynooth. It was great when we weren’t in it because exams take place there in January.

“It kind of prevented injuries too and 90% of the time you had more of a clean bill of health for the Sigerson. There is more of a risk with injuries in the O’Byrne Cup.”

This time last year, Divilly lost Tommy Moolick to a knee injury in a first round O’Byrne Cup game. The Kildare man is again on the treatment table, having picked up the same ailment training with the county prior to Christmas.

In losing to Laois by a point on Sunday, Wexford’s Eoghan Nolan picked up an injury and now looks like he will miss out on the Sigerson Cup campaign. Divilly, though, knows there are plusses to the university’s participation in the O’Byrne Cup too.

“Against Meath, we had Colm Honan in goals, who would be the second choice keeper in his club (Navan O’Mahonys) and not on the Meath U21 panel. In front of his own county, he played well. Meath hit the crossbar a few times but he was good and his own people were able to see that. It’s great that some lads can get game-time like that. The O’Byrne Cup can be a shop window, where they’re showcasing their talents.”

Divilly will welcome back his captain and 2015 footballer of the year, Jack McCaffrey, Monaghan’s Ryan Wylie and Kildare forward, Niall Kelly, the week after next when they return from a month away travelling.


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