*Avenue substitute Mikey Dinan celebrates. Photograph: Natasha Barton
CLARE CUP CHAMPIONS Avenue Utd dumped last year’s beaten finalists Newmarket Celtic from the competition over the weekend with Manus Celtic bowing out at the hands of Celtic’s second string.
Weather conditions ensured that only four games took place over the weekend. The main attraction was of course the repeat of the 2022 Cup Final which pitted Avenue Utd A against Newmarket Celtic A in the third round of the Ennis Carpets Clare Cup.
Avenue on track to retain Cup title
Avenue Utd A 3
Newmarket Celtic A 1
Focus and determination was evident from Avenue’s set-up on arrival to their Roslevan grounds. It had to be no other way as even though it was a knockout tie for both sides, it seemed as if there was more on the line for the hosts.
Newmarket Celtic’s run to the FAI Junior Cup semi-finals and Munster Junior Cup quarter-finals will result in a positive season on reflection but crucially no silverware has been dished out, just yet.
With Avenue focusing purely on domestic matters, their attention wasn’t diverted to upcoming big ties, meaning that the potential setback of falling up short to their rivals and bowing out of the Clare Cup was simply not an option.
Celtic were without striker Darragh Leahy and manager Paddy Purcell, both of whom were suspended while Conor McDaid was ruled out through injury. On the opposite side, Avenue Utd were without two of their most experienced players in Conor Mullen and Mark Roche, both of whom are sidelined with injury.
A glorious chance to open the deadlock fell to Elias Kunz within thirty seconds, he managed to round Shane Cusack but saw his effort hit the post and bounce wide. Cusack had his first save of the afternoon on five minutes when he stopped a Jamie Roche header from a corner.
Early momentum was with Avenue until David McCarthy was needlessly fouled by Eoghan Thynne and referee Shane Hayes pointed to the penalty spot. One week on from converting a penalty in the FAI Junior Cup, Harvey Cullinan saw his effort stopped by Luke Woodrow but the rebound save from the former Tulla Utd and Bridge Utd custodian was the most impressive.
Good combination between Eoin Hayes and Cullinan saw the defender shoot narrowly wide on fourteen minutes and Celtic would fail to threaten any shot of note for the remainder of the half.
Winger Stephen Jordan spurned a chance on twenty minutes and Nnabuke Nneji also had an opportunity but his shot let him down having done very well to hold off both Jack Kelly and Eunan Doherty before getting the chance.
Hayes was pointing to the penalty spot again on thirty minutes after Ronan Kerin got away from Ethan Fitzgerald but collided with Cullinan. The resulting spot kick was dispatched to the net by Mossy Hehir to break the deadlock on thirty minutes.
Unlike their showing a week previous, there was life missing from Newmarket Celtic’s charges and management rejigged their side at half-time, opting to go with four in the back and bring in the experience of Stephen Kelly with Fitzgerald making way. Kelly certainly brought some fire and produced an excellent double tackle moments into the half to mark his arrival.
Proceedings were delayed for up to ten minutes after Nnabuke Nneji sutained a head injury but remained on the field of play.
Cusack stopped Hehir from doubling the gap on sixty one minutes but was unable to get to a powerful effort from Nna in the subsequent corner with the midfielder unleashing an excellent effort.
Avenue extended their advantage to 3-0 on seventy two minutes when a precise cross from full-back Cullen McCabe was met at the right moment by Hehir to see a swagger return to their supporters.
Woodrow stopped Eoin Hayes from pulling one back on seventy five minutes but couldn’t stop Ronan McCormack’s penalty on seventy eight minutes, McCarthy was again fouled to win the spot kick.
McCormack rattled the crossbar on ninety five minutes as Celtic continued to press but David Russell’s Avenue deservedly held out for the win.
In a heated affair, six yellow cards were brandished with some dangerous tackles from either side. The rivalry between the two is where it’s at so far as soccer in the county is concerned and Avenue will now fully invest in retaining the Cup and the Premier Division title but this outing is likely to provide some motivation for Celtic to get their hands back on the League.
Mossy Hehir, Stephen Jordan and Nnabuke Nneji stood out for Avenue who will now be favourites to retain the Cup for the first time since 2011.
Ironically, Sunday’s defeat means it is Newmarket’s earliest exit from the Clare Cup since 2011, the last occasion when they failed to contest the decider. The defeat is a comedown from their highs of recent weeks but will offer plenty of learnings.
Avenue: Luke Woodrow; Cullen McCabe, Dylan Casey, Jamie Roche, Conor Hehir; Eoghan Thynne, Nnabuke Nneji, Stephen Jordan, Ronan Kerin, Mossy Hehir, Elias Kunz.
Subs: Vincent Onuhoa for Nneji (70), Mikey Dinan for Jordan (71), Philip Talty for Kunz (96)
Newmarket Celtic: Shane Cusack; David O’Grady, Ethan Fitzgerald, Harvey Cullinan; Jack Kelly, Davy Lennon, Aaron Rudd, Eunan Doherty, Dean Hegarty, David McCarthy, Eoin Hayes.
Subs: Stephen Kelly for Fitzgerald (HT), Ronan McCormack for Doherty (71), Tadhg Noonan for J Kelly (86), Sean Perilll for Hegarty (91), Alan Kelly for Eoin Hayes (100).
Referee: Shane Hayes
Celtic B team through to fourth round
Newmarket Celtic 2
Manus Celtic 0
Venue: McDonough Memorial Park, Newmarket-on-Fergus
Beaten finalists of 2019, Newmarket Celtic B advanced to the fourth round of the Ennis Carpets Clare Cup with a merited victory against Manus Celtic.
Evan Kelly goaled from the penalty spot while substitute Damien Halpin doubled their advantage in the second half to see them prevail. Currently sitting in third spot of the Banner Fire First Division, Newmarket Celtic B will be keen to put together a lengthy Cup run and keep the club flag flying.
Liam Moloney’s Manus felt the impact of absenteeism with the return of hurling action seeing them miss a few key bodies that were lining out with the Clarecastle hurlers.
Newmarket Celtic B: Alan Reidy; John Davron, Jamie Cronin, David Gilbert, Cathal Cullinan; Jason O’Neill, Killian Howard; Seamus Considine, Cian Foley, Evan Kelly; Conor McCarthy.
Subs: Gavin O’Donnell for Howard (HT), Ché Burke for Considine, Damien Halpin for McCarthy, Adam Cusack for Kelly.
Manus Celtic: Conor Liddy; Aiden McCarthy, Dean O’Hara, Barry Guinane, Barry Malone, Aiden Ryan, Alan Considine, Liam Halpin, Evan Wiley, Stephen McMillan, Ryan DeLoughrey.
Subs: John McInerney, Jason Considine, Ethan McCarthy, Ben Moloney.
Tulla on top in East Clare derby
Tulla Utd 3
Mountshannon Celtic 0
In the only tie from the Maloney Hardware Premier Division over the weekend, it was the clash of the two bottom placed sides.
Tulla Utd had too much strength for bottom placed Mountshannon Celtic. Mike Moloney’s side hit the net through Jack McSweeney and the Withycombe brothers, Sean and Dan to collect their third win of the League.
They are three points adrift of Kilrush Rangers and need the West Clare side to slip up on more than one occasion if they are to move out of the relegation zone.
A miracle is unlikely to aid Mountshannon Celtic who have yet to win in any of their thirteen league encounters and are set for a swift return to the First Division.
Tulla Utd: Simon Kilker, Fiachra Hale, Adam McNamara, Ray Bane, Dara Ryan, Jack McSweeney, Eanna Culloo, Daragh Corry, Eoin Hassett, Dan Withycombe, Sean Withycombe.
Subs: James Wallace for Culloo, Daragh Murphy for McSweeney, David O’Donnell for D Withycombe, Diarmuid Molloy for S Withycombe, David Cunningham for Hassett. Colm McInerney.
Mountshannon Celtic: Seanie Doyle, Sean Brown, Oran Scanlan, Niall Deer, Declan Pearl, Brian Rodgers, Dillon Badminton, John Scanlan, Martin Cunningham, Cathal Doyle, Paddy Fitzgerald.
Subs: Josh Duffy for Fitzgerald