Speech by Brendan Dillon
“Dr. Tony O’Neill passed away in October 1999 and in his memory the club is officially launching the Dr. Tony O’Neill Scholarship Trust Fund.
For those of you who did not know Tony he was an extraordinary man. A medical doctor by profession his great love was sport and in particular UCD Soccer Club. Known affectingly simply as “the Doc”, he was the most outstanding and visionary Irish Sports Administrator of our time. The fact that most of his work was voluntary simply added to the sense of awe which surrounded his achievements. His work in the Football Association of Irish Schools, the Athletic Union Council in UCD, the Irish Universities Football Union, the F.A.I. and UEFA proved that Tony was a man happy to spread his administrative talents in many directions.
There is no doubt however that his proudest achievement and his enduring legacy is the founding of the Soccer Scholarship Scheme in UCD. It seems hard to believe now but when the Doc announced the Soccer Scholarship Scheme in 1979 the notion of scholarships in Irish sports had previously been unheard of.
It was a concept Tony had noted and examined on the many tours to America he brought UCD teams to.
When he somehow persuaded the League of Ireland to accept UCD’s nomination in 1979 it was an opportunity to launch a new vision for Irish sport. Over thirty years later almost two hundred and fifty players have gone through the scholarship system.
All of them have had the opportunity of obtaining a third level education and playing at the highest level in this country. Many of them have represented Ireland at under age and League of Ireland level. A number of them were subsequently transferred to top English clubs. Many of them have being a great support to the Club none more so than our 1st ever Scholarship recipient Keith Dignam who is the current Chairman.
While sports scholarships in Ireland are now common place, the soccer scholarship programme in UCD continues to go from strength to strength and set new targets. Part of the reason for this was that Tony understood that a scholarship was far more than paying a player’s fees and putting him into the first team. It was about looking after the player and also imposing standards in terms of behaviour and character that continue to stand the test of time. The Club is very proud to say that players who represent UCD continue to do so with integrity and a unity of purpose that continues to defy the odds.
People would have been forgiven for thinking that following Tony’s sad passing in 1999 that the Club’s fortunes would suffer and the scholarship scheme would become a thing of the past. Not so. Tony’s legacy ran very deep. In fact the scholarship scheme has continued to thrive and you have seen this evening the magnificent achievements of our current crop of scholarship players over the last twelve months. The scholarship programme remains the bedrock of the Club’s involvement in Irish football.
It is why the Club feels that it is particularly appropriate tonight to commemorate the memory of Tony by creating a scholarship trust in his name.
In working with the UCD Foundation the Scheme can attract funding in a tax efficient manner which we hope will secure the scholarship programme into the future and support the development of the next generation of scholarship students.
Why you might ask is the scholarship scheme so successful? The answer is relatively simple. It remains a proven and trusted alternative to the unnecessary drain of the best of our young talent to England at fifteen and sixteen years of age, many of whom come back a number of years later with no qualifications but the memory of shattered dreams.
There is no doubt that the scholarship scheme has come a long way since the early days. Sometimes back then it was difficult to see how a place could be secured in a college course for a talented footballer.
Tony often told a story of one young scholarship hopeful at a time when a pass leaving certificate was enough to get you into Arts. Tony was concerned about the player’s academic achievements. When he suggested that the player might try Arts, the player replied “oh that’s great, I always loved drawing”.
Happily today our only artists are those performing very well on the football field!
Our target is to raise €250,000.00 over the next three years and the club has already secured €25,000.00 in donations. Brian Fitzpatrick, Tony’s brother in law has agreed to become a Trustee.
In conclusion I want to say that the UCD Scholarship Programme is one of the great success stories of Irish Sport and we hope you agree that it is well worth supporting.”
The 2010 UCD AFC Investec Alumni Dinner took place on Friday May 28th at the Radisson Blu St. Helens Hotel in Dublin with former Republic of Ireland midfielder, Matt Holland, as Guest of Honour.
UCD AFC are currently in 5th place in the Premier Division of the Airtricity League.
Matt Holland is a regular contributor to RTE Sport and will be a co-commentator for the station during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa this month.
Brendan Dillon was Secretary and General Manager of UCD Soccer Club for almost 20 years and an Officer of the Athletic Union Council in UCD, the governing body for sport in UCD. He is also a former Chairman of the FAI National League and officer of the FAI.
Investec came to Ireland in 2000 when the Group acquired Gandon Capital Markets, a highly-respected treasury and corporate banking specialist, and the first institution to have been granted a license to operate in the IFSC. Investec Ireland now employs a team of over 100 specialists focusing on private banking, capital markets and investment banking for a domestic and international client base.