*Avenue Utd players celebrate. Photograph: Natasha Barton / CDSL

AVENUE UTD have completed a League and Cup double for the first time in over a decade.

Avenue Utd A 1
Newmarket Celtic A 1
Venue: Roslevan

Roslevan resembled a cauldron on Wednesday evening as Avenue Utd and Newmarket Celtic locked horns for the second time in the space of four days with silverware again on offer.

In this Maloney Hardware Premier Division decider, Avenue entered the game needing only a draw while Celtic required the three points to leapfrog their opponents who gained top spot having received two points from an appeal into Sporting Ennistymon fielding a player who did not have a necessary international transfer certificate.

Captain Dylan Casey netted the all-important equaliser to see Avenue crowned champions with ensuing scenes of celebrations raising the decibel levels on the outskirts of Ennis as the club claimed the league title for the first time since 2013.

Unlike their Clare Cup showdown on Saturday, there was much more fire and bite to proceedings. From the get-go, Newmarket laid down the gauntlet and showed the desire that had been badly lacking in their display over the weekend.

They came out on the field like men possessed. The approach worked wonders with Stephen Kelly sending a booming header to the roof of James Tierney’s net with the game a mere three minutes old, Eoin Hayes had done well to win the corner for Celtic which was expertly delivered by David McCarthy.

Newmarket almost doubled their lead with the next attack but Eoin Hayes’ shot went narrowly wide of the mark, having been put through by Gearoid O’Brien. They remained on top for the bulk of the first half and bullied their opponents with Stephen Kelly connecting with everything in the air while the addition of Kevin Harnett and Cathal Hayes to the starting eleven added a sense of steel down the middle.

Such was the amount of questions posed by Newmarket that Avenue certainly panicked, they became tense with each other on the field and made uncharacteristic mistakes.

Full-back Cullen McCabe had a chance to equalise on twenty two minutes, he did well to find a gap in the Celtic defence but doubted himself when the opportunity arose and the danger was duly averted.

A simply vital interception from Mark Roche on thirty five minutes denied what was certain to be goal number two for Newmarket. The reigning league champions pounced on the counter-attack with a pass to Gearoid O’Brien superbly fetched by Roche to the relief of the home crowd. Philip Talty had a chance at the other end but it didn’t trouble Shane Cusack in the last kick of the half to see Celtic hold a dangerous 1-0 advantage at half-time.

Such a lead was perilous given the circumstances and Newmarket badly needed a second goal to deflate their challengers. They came desperately close with their first two chances on the resumption, James Tierney did well to save from David McCarthy on fifty nine minutes while Gearoid O’Brien was denied by the post on sixty six minutes.

Dominance had shifted to Avenue whose probing resulted in both David O’Grady and O’Brien picking up yellow cards for late challenges as the Cup champions began to target the wings increasingly. They almost picked up their coveted goal on seventy two minutes but Shane Cusack produced a great save pressure off a Conor Mullen header, the home crowd tried to protest that the ball had crossed the line.

However, five minutes later, their work paid off as off the back of another corner, their equaliser arrived. Stephen Jordan played it quick to Cullen McCabe, it wasn’t the first time they tried this trick, the right-full chipped the ball into the danger area but it was headed clear but only to Dylan Casey on the edge of the box who controlled the ball with precision before unleashing a fantastic finish.

From here, it was time for Avenue to bolt the door shut with Newmarket now in desperate need of a winner. They came close twice, Stephen Kelly saw his header trail wide of the mark from a David McCarthy while a finger-tip save from Tierney stopped Eoin Hayes from crowning Newmarket champions on eighty seven minutes.

For the five minutes of additional time, the play was nestled in the Newmarket attack. Crucially from each restart, mainly a flurry of throw-ins, Avenue heads continued to pop up and clear their lines, Conor Mullen and Alan Roche really came to the fore here in the dying stages. Unable to get the ball past this wall, time ran out for Newmarket and when Pa Gleeson blew the final whistle, the draw gifted the League title to Avenue.

2011 was the last time Avenue Utd completed the double, the foundations for this success were built in the off-season through the excellent additions made to the squad which ensured over the course of the season they were in a strong enough position to challenge for honours. Despite a shaky opening half, Avenue held on. Conor Hehir, Eoghan Thynne, Mark Roche, Dylan Casey and Alan Roche stood out for the champions.

Focus for now with Avenue will be marking their success and rightly so. The big test on the horizon for them will be to see if they can try create a legacy similar to their opponents, they have the right age-profile and their Munster Junior Cup loss to Villa FC is still fresh in the mind providing the motivation. Whether Russell’s side come back next season with the same hunger will be revealing of their future aspirations.

With a stirring opening half, Newmarket Celtic showed there was plenty of life and fight left in their challenge. Crucially, they tired as the contest wore on, they needed an early goal in the second half to really dent their opponents but it never arrived. Their cause wasn’t help by the absence of Eoin O’Brien, Paddy Purcell, Aaron Rudd, Alan Kelly and Darren Cullinan but they knew heading into proceedings those players would not be available to them. Stephen Kelly, Eoin Hayes and Eoin Kelly were best for Celtic while the additions of Cathal Hayes, Kevin Harnett and Conor McDaid to left back nullified the areas where Avenue were strongest in their Cup final clash.

Their ferocity that was evident for large parts of the game was typical of an O’Malley managed side. Current boss Mark has attempted to blood new players throughout the season, however his predecessors who certainly achieved in terms of silverware secured were guilty of not adding sufficient young talent to the team and this has proved costly. Their U17 side reached the last eight of the FAI Cup this season to offer a glimmer of hope, the experience of their more senior players cannot be discounted but it needs to be revitalised with fresh additions.

Avenue Utd: James Tierney; Cullen McCabe, Conor Mullen, Dylan Casey, Conor Hehir; Alan Roche; Stephen Jordan, Eoghan Thynne, Mark Roche; Philip Talty, Elias Kunz.

Subs: Mossy Hehir for Talty (57), Jamie Roche for Jordan (90).

Newmarket Celtic: Shane Cusack; David O’Grady, Eoin Kelly, Stephen Kelly, Conor McDaid; Cathal Hayes; Kevin Harnett, David McCarthy; Gearoid O’Brien, Daithí O’Connell; Eoin Hayes.

Subs: Ronan McCormack for O’Connell (60), Pat McDaid for O’Grady (66) (inj), Davy Lennon for C Hayes (82), Cael Gaffney for P McDaid (88) (inj).

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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