UCD boss, Colin O’Neill says he can forgive Greg Sloggett for his passionate celebrations as Derry City put his side to the sword at Brandywell on Friday night.
Sloggett was one of O’Neill’s top performers as they clinched the First Division title last year and battled to an FAI Cup semi-final spot before completing a move to full-time football on Foyleside in the close season.
And the Meath native bucked the trend by celebrating City’s goals against his former club with some gusto as he got his Brandywell career off to a winning start in front of almost 4,000 supporters.
Who could blame him? Certainly not O’Neill who believes Sloggett deserves his chance to play in front of bigger attendances.
“You’ve got to buy into the people who you play for,” said O’Neill. “They pay good money to come see you play so you’ve got to give them that passion.
“Through gritted teeth I’ll say he had a good game,” he laughed. “No, I’m delighted for him. He needs to be playing on a stage like this week in, week out. He’s a top class lad.”
And the UCD manager explained how Sloggett won’t rest on his laurels and will continue to find ways to better his game.
“He came away with a three goal win tonight but he’ll be in there looking at how he can improve his game - that’s the kind of character he is.”
Sloggett played a key role in central midfield alongside skipper, Barry McNamee and Ciaron Harkin as City strolled to victory. With so much pressure to get off to a winning start at home, Sloggett explains how his original plans for a muted celebration went out the window once David Parkhouse’s goal was met by a huge roar from partisan home support.
“I was thinking about how I’d react if we scored but you’d find it hard to hush yourself in front of that crowd. It was really, really good and the passion was unbelievable and we really felt it on the night,” said Sloggett.
“It was great,” he beamed. “It’s my first experience of having a good set of fans behind you. Obviously UCD don’t have many fans but you really, really notice it and I really felt it there tonight.
“So I couldn’t help but celebrate the goals,” he laughed. “Particularly against my old team but it felt so good. It was brilliant to have them with us all the way. It’s a real adrenaline rush and no better feeling in the world.”
The 22 year-old midfielder reckons Declan Devine has instilled high performance values and passion into his players which was evident on Friday night.
“He’s a passionate man. He oozes that passion in us and makes us feel it and instils it in our team and I think we showed that on the pitch.”
Understandably, it took time to settle in to the game on Friday night but after a few stray passes, Sloggett felt the Candy Stripes controlled the match.
“It was a difficult start. We had a couple of loose passes and things were a little bit hectic. But just before the goal I thought we really settled in and started to string a few passes together and showed some good quality on the ball and it was a good result.
“They have three good ball playing midfielders who caused us a lot of trouble and we had to do a lot of running to keep them at bay. We did that and got the three goals so we’re delighted.
“They got on the ball and played and all respect to them, they put on a good show. I think we really had the power in our team to just push them off it and we managed to score three goals which was great. We really set our stall out to the fans for the season ahead and what’s to come.”
Next up is a tough trip to Tallaght where City lost 6-1 and 2-0 on two disastrous visits last season but Sloggett can’t wait for the challenge.
“I can’t wait to go to Tallaght now to pit ourselves against a really good team and a team tipped to compete right up there. So I’m really looking forward to that.”