*Eoin Hayes holds off Nnabuike Nneji. Photograph: Joe Buckley
A BIG WEEKEND BECKONS FOR soccer in Co Clare with third round ties in the FAI Junior Cup set to draw plenty of interest from local supporters.
Four clubs from the Clare District and Soccer League (CDSL) take to the field in the third round this weekend with only one guaranteed to be still standing by Sunday evening.
Roslevan hosts a mouth-watering tie at 11am on Sunday when Newmarket Celtic put their national title on the line against their biggest rivals, Avenue Utd in what will certainly be a tense affair and not alone will see one of the side’s eliminated but also their respective unbeaten runs this season.
Newmarket Celtic head into the game after claiming another piece of silverware, they were victorious in the President’s Cup on Saturday and look to keep their momentum going. Paddy Purcell’s side will face a different type of test this weekend but will be looking to their reliable cohort of Eoin Hayes, Shane Cusack, Harvey Cullinan and David McCarthy to guide them through.
Avenue Utd defeated Tulla Utd last weekend in the Munster Junior Cup to advance to the last thirty two of the competition but all eyes for them are now fixed on the national competition. Paddy O’Malley’s return to Australia has deprived them of a quality footballer while injury has hampered Steven McGann’s return to the club from Pike Rovers. Recent victories over Celtic in Roslevan will give confidence to Avenue but they will need an almighty display from key players such as Nnabuike Nneji, Mark Roche, Dylan Casey, Elias Kunz and Ronan Kerin to aid their cause.
Shannon Olympic have experienced a swell in numbers in their club allowing them to field a second string when questions on having a first team existed in recent seasons. Their fixture against Tralee Dynamos has been moved from Olympic Park to Frank Healy Park but 2pm remains the kick-off time.
Centre-half, Rob Clair who sustained a fractured ankle remains sidelined for ten weeks and will be watching with interest in Doora. “There’s good players there, we have a strong bench compared with other years, we have a lot done in the background and we have two teams compared to struggling to field one team so it is a lot better,” he told The Clare Echo.
Recruitment has been effective for Olympic, he felt. “Our team used to be an ageing team with a lot of people who retired and we were stuck for players two or three years ago where we’d turn up to games with just the bare minimum, now we have recruited and have put in a lot of work behind the scenes to get younger players in, we’ve given it the two years where we now each other and they know the Olympic way, short-passes in and out, sticky and we’re used to playing with each other now so we can compete this year, we want to win the First Division League, that was our aim at the start of the season”.
Rob added, “It’s great to still be involved in the competition, it is an excellent competition to be involved in and we always look forward to it and to an away game in it. We should give it to them, we’ll be right up there with them, they won’t be much better than ourselves and we will be hopeful of getting a result. With this competition you could be playing an average enough team on paper but in this competition you never know, it is all on the day and you can’t read into any team too much, they won’t think much of us but it is the type of competition where it all comes down to on the day. It is a great honour to be in the competition, each win is huge and another opportunity to stay in the FAI, to go and travel playing against all the teams that you would never really come up against, it is an excellent competition”.
Eoghan Fox’s match-winner saw Fair Green Celtic shock Killarney Athletic and they will be hopeful of taking another step forward when they meet Rathkeale AFC in Lees Rd on Sunday afternoon at 2pm. The Ennis club which is in existence since February 2022 is lining out in the FAI Junior Cup for the first time and face a side who won the Desmond League in 2018/19. Richie O’Grady remains at the helm with Fair Green where Ross McCarthy, Eddie Shaw and Bruce Piggot serve as pivotal players.
Action resumes in the Maloney Hardware Premier Division where Kilrush Rangers host Shannon Town (Sunday 11am) and Bridge Utd welcome Lifford to Sixmilebridge (2:15pm).
Ahead of the weekend, The Clare Echo has released a special edition of The Water Break previewing the games.