*Avenue Utd’s Mossy Hehir. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

AVENUE UTD will celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year at top of the table in the Maloney Hardware CDSL Premier Division.

Avenue Utd 2
Kilkishen Celtic 0
Venue: Lees Rd

Two opening half goals were sufficient for David Russell’s side to see off a stern challenge from Kilkishen Celtic at a wet Lees Rd on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately it was in the setting of the Astro turf so the rainfall had little impact on the quality of play.

Kilkishen’s familiarity with more testing underfoot conditions from their home patch was far from a deterrent as last season’s First Division champions will certainly have left Ennis pleased with many aspects of their showing.

When the sides met in October, Avenue Utd recorded a 7-0 win away from home. Granted they could have struck for seven goals in this repeat fixture but the challenge from Kilkishen Celtic was considerably greater in this outing.

In their first league game of the season on Astro, Avenue began proceedings when spraying the ball perfectly from defence to attack in forming different manoeuvres.

They were beginning to threaten around goal too and seamlessly worked the ball from one side of the field to the other, the presence of Steven McGann in a central role was key to this.

This is what helped them on their way to opening the scoring on thirteen minutes. Paul Tuohy produced a nice save to deny McGann the first goal of the game but Conor Mullen got a flick on a Mossy Hehir delivery from the corner to see Avenue open their account.

Within four minutes, they doubled the lead, this time Hehir was the finisher with full-back Cullen McCabe offering the assist, Again, the pace at which they transferred the play from one side of the field to the other saw them hurt their opponents but more effectively was the speed at which they moved the ball.

Gary Roche on the double and a header from Ronan Kerin on thirty seven minutes saw Avenue spurn opportunities to bolster their lead in the run-up to half-time.

A glorious chance for Kilkishen to pull one bag was coughed up on the restart. A blunder from James Tierney gifted possession to Aidan Fawl and he made the mistake in not pulling the trigger and tried to offload possession but diverted the danger in doing so, much to the relief of the Avenue camp.

At the other end, Conor Hehir almost followed the scoring example of his older brother Mossy. He got a touch onto the ball which sent Paul Tuohy scrambling to keep it from crossing the line and the netminder managed to do just that on fifty eight minutes.

Fresh legs added renewed hunger to the Avenue attack as they attempted to raid for more goals. Dylan Barry saw his effort go wide, the post denied Vincent Onouha and it was Denis Murphy who made the all-important block to stop Gavin Cooney from goaling late on.

Although it was an improved performance from Kilkishen Celtic and one in which for the most part they were defensively solid, the moments of them looking like a dangerous side on the attack were few and far between. Ahead of the festive break, Fergus Donovan be satisfied with how his charges have fared in the top flight.

With seven goals scored in eight league games, it does clearly highlight that attack is where they need to see some serious progress in the New Year. Paul Tuohy between the posts had a fine display as did the defensive quartet of Denis Murphy, Conor Cooney, John Cooney and Cormac Murphy while Denis Fahy showed well at times.

Top of the table is the Christmas present for Avenue Utd following on from their sixth league win of the season. They’re still unbeaten in all competitions to date which leaves them in a healthy position prior to sitting down to tackle the turkey.

An honest appraisal from their ranks of this contest will leave them in no doubt that they are not hitting the heights that they are capable of but also the level that they need to reach if they’re to have continued progression in the FAI and Munster Junior Cups. The danger of a big gulf in the Clare League means they can afford to be far from their best and still get the job done. They can point to a reshuffle in their first eleven but all those players handed a starting jersey and introduced off the bench not deemed to be regulars, would certainly rate themselves as good enough to be in the first team.

How they sprayed the ball on Astro is a big plus and will leave them confident if such a setting presents itself for the external competitions early in 2024. Whatever the setting, they’ll have to be more clinical in order to keep progressing. Avenue Utd’s best included Cullen McCabe, Philip Talty, Dylan Casey and Gavin Cooney.

Avenue Utd: James Tierney, Cullen McCabe, Conor Mullen, Dylan Casey, Conor Hehir; Nnabuike Nneji, Philip Talty; Ronan Kerin, Steven McGann, Mossy Hehir; Gary Roche.

Subs: Dylan Barry for Nneji (HT), Vincent Onouha for M Hehir (55), Witness Odirile for Roche (55), Gavin Cooney for Kerin (64), Mark Roche for McGann (64).

Kilkishen Celtic: Paul Tuohy; John Cooney, Denis Murphy, Conor Cooney, Cormac Murphy; Enda Murphy, Cathal Lenihan, Cian Mulqueen, Denis Fahy, Conor Henry, Aidan Fawl.

Subs: Declan O’Reilly for Lenihan (52), Alan McInerney for Fahy (61), Stevie Donnellan for C Cooney (80).

Referee: Pa Gleeson

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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