*Ennis Town FC’s Thomas Collins. Photograph: Natasha Barton
ENNIS TOWN FC are hoping to become the first Clare club to be crowned Munster U19 champions, the sense of history attached with the occasion is not lost on the players.
They face off with Midleton FC in Friday’s final at Turners Cross having already defied the odds to reach the juncture.
Striker Dean Hegarty admitted that this has been their target all throughout a busy season. “We’ve been training all year for it, our main goal was to get to the final of this year more than anything because no other team has got there from Clare, we’re there now, it’s one more game now”.
Kilnamona’s Hegarty joined the club at the beginning of this season from Avenue Utd. “It has been very welcoming since I joined, I felt like all the young players going to the seniors this year has improved us a lot strength wise as a team and has given us more belt heading into the final,” he said of his first year with Ennis Town.
An engineering student at the University of Limerick, he has sacrificed evenings at The Stables throughout the competition, something he says has been worth it. Although he is well aware of what’s at stake, Dean is cognisant of the dangers posed by hyping up a contest too much, “It’s just another game, there’s no need to hype it up because that’s where you can lose it. We’re going down to play a normal game”.
Offering a big boost to the side is the return of Thomas Collins to the heart of their defence. A knee injury ruled him out of action for Michael Neylon’s Clare U20 gaelic football side but he’s glad to be back in action, “I’ve been busy with the U20s, I was injured for a while but I’m coming back into it now, it’s the perfect time to come back fully fit, for a final. I’m over the injury now, fully fit and ready for Friday”.
A Leaving Certificate student at Rice College, Collins noted that there has been a bit of anticipation building for the fixture. “Around the school the boys would be coming up to me about it, Johnson as well is in Rice College, teachers have heard about it and have been mentioning it too. It’s good to see around the town, a few of our friends will be coming down to watch it, it’s good to have that support”.
Adapting to different game plans has been a strength of theirs throughout the season, the Lissycasey defender believed. “To be fair to Tony Downey he does so much work with us, he went down to suss out Tramore and they were a very good side, they were the favourites to win this, I wasn’t playing that day but the boys set up very well, anything he has said we’ve adapted to it fairly quick to get the job done”.
Robbie Gormley was among the members of the Ennis Town side to watch Midleton FC in action in the Munster semi-final against Tulla Utd. The contest has given them an awareness of what to expect on Friday night, “We would probably be a better ball team than them but they are dogged, they will go for ninety minutes, they are dangerous from set pieces”.
A chance to create history is one they need to grasp, the winger maintained. “We’re not just playing for ourselves, we’re playing for our managers and the county, we want to be the first Clare team to win a Munster final and push ourselves to the max”.