*Ronan Arthur. Photograph: Joe Buckley

NEWMARKET CELTIC have been on one hell of a journey this season, reaching finals of the FAI Junior Cup and Munster Junior Cup.

Their run has lifted the spirits of the village of Newmarket-on-Fergus, a sea of red and white has been visible for the past fortnight. Supporters will travel to Jackman Park from near and far to get behind them this Saturday as they take on Tipperary giants, St Michael’s AFC but few will have clocked up more miles than Ronan Arthur.

A former player and mentor with the club’s flagship side, Ronan has been based in Dubai for the past ten years and as soon as they defeated Ballynanty in the semi-final, he began making arrangements to return home for the decider.

Of his own personal journey to the final, Ronan outlined, “Door to door was fifteen hours, I flew via Heathrow because you always want to support Shannon Airport and fly in there rather than go into Dublin, it’s quicker to go via Dublin and get the Green Bus down but Shannon is such a great facility that you would always like to support it”.

Golfers could have been mistaken that they were in the midst impromptu recording of Gary Neville’s podcast, The Overlap in the beautiful setting of Dromoland on Sunday morning but instead it was Ronan fielding questions from The Clare Echo while walking along the back nine of the golf course.

A co-founder of Arthur & Lees Auctioneers, Ronan is a chartered surveyor with Cavendish Maxwell, he had initially planned to stay in Dubai for two years but has been there for ten. “I was doing a first-time buyers seminar in 2013, the media in Dublin had spoke about green shoots and two-tier recovery, EBS had asked us to do a seminar in the Temple Gate, we went to our accountants signed off and then I sat into the jeep with Tommy and said ‘Tommy how am I meant to talk to these young people and tell them to buy in Ireland, they are as well off to go to Canada, Australia and a lot of them did’, I said I was going off to Dubai, I had never been there before but I knew it was a monopoly board and my qualifications and set of skills would be worth something there”.

Prior to moving, he had been part of Liam Murphy’s management that guided Celtic to win what would become the first Clare Cup in their historic nine in a row run. “That was the start of the nine in a row, last year was the end of it, a lot of us including me thought the cycle had finished”. He is full of praise for Paddy Purcell and his management for ensuring Newmarket bounced back stronger. “If a team is organised and the set-up is professional and they have ability then they will go far. The games are getting videoed, there’s a next level, we were always good to train, we minded ourselves, loads of years during the dark times a load of lads weren’t minding themselves but people set an example, now it’s run as professionally and seriously as a GAA team. I am surprised, I wasn’t expecting this kind of run in any of the competitions. Avenue are a good side, David Russell has them well organised, they knocked us out of the Cup and are vying for the League, it’s interesting times”.

Ronan Arthur. Photograph: Joe Buckley

Sources like Twitter for match updates and The Clare Echo are followed by Arthur to ensure he stays in the loop while he has managed to get his hands on some videos of games from this season. He points out that himself and Arizona based Jason Ryan are among the most regular people to interact with the club’s social media. “It’s part of our DNA, we’re lucky that no matter sports club you’re involved in you spend so much time in your formative years on that field like down at the hurling field or up at the soccer field, it becomes part of you because sometimes the soccer you can play with whoever you want but we’re lucky in Newmarket, we’re born into the hurling but with the soccer lads can move away, a lot of us have gone away but we always come back to Newmarket, it’s part of who you are, it’s part of your identity. These are the lads you went to school with, played hurling and soccer with, it’s lucky then when you win something with them, the bond that you have with lads that you grew up with and played sport with and if you’ve had a bit of success with them I think it reinforces it even more and makes it stronger”.

That DNA has become stronger since moving away. “You become more Irish the further you move away and you become more Newmarket-on-Fergus, more Newmarket Celtic, more Newmarket-on-Fergus GAA the further you go. When we won the semi-final, I was saying to my wife who is from the Philippines, I said I wouldn’t mind going back for the final, she said ‘Ronan you have to go back for the final’, logistically I had to find out how it worked but Jackman Park on a Saturday night is perfect, I can work remotely with the job I have so I’m working from home all this week, I’m getting to sample the atmosphere and it’s nice to see all the colours up. They say ‘Irish by birth Munster by the grace of God’, it’s Newmarket-on-Fergus by the grace of God”.

On Saturday, he unexpectedly was Assistant Manager as the Youths team managed by his good friend Barry O’Driscoll lost 4-1 to Avenue Utd. Even though he is thousands of miles away, he has contributed to the club with Arthur and Lees sponsoring a set of jerseys for underage sides. “No more than when I was at home I’d try be involved in some capacity with the soccer club but also with the hurling club, I feel it’s very important for the two clubs to work together. Kevin Halpin said it to me a few years ago, he said ‘Ronan they’ve football and hurling clubs in Éire Óg and Cratloe, we’re a dual club too because we’ve a hurling team and a soccer team’, that makes sense and for what it is, it’s not a huge place but there’s a pool of talent which has gone back historically. The women’s side is important too and you know it better than anyone with your sisters, with our cousins Edel and Michelle, the McMahons Moire Elaine and Cats, the talent there. Newmarket Celtic is starting to get the girls teams out which is important, maybe the girls are better than the lads at sports in Newmarket”.

Once he got the okay from his wife to travel home, Ronan was immediately trying to sort logistics. “Once I got the okay from her I was out the door! I spoke to Crusher and asked what was the plans with the venue, I thought it could be on in the Aviva but he said it could be Turners Cross or Jackman Park on a Saturday evening because it’s a Bank Holiday weekend. I didn’t want to come home just for the couple of days, I wanted to spend time with my parents Val and Marie, my brother Gerard, my family and friends, then I spoke to my boss and she said ‘go home I know you’ll get the work done’, I arrived back last Friday”.

A return trip for the Munster Junior Cup final in May is not on the cards. “I arrive back on Tuesday morning at 1am, I’m at work the next day, I’ve four days work and then we go to Philippines for two weeks on holiday so I’ll hardly be making it back to the Munster Junior but it’s amazing and the chance of doing a double is unprecedented”.

He addressed the Youths team at half-time in Saturday’s “dead-rubber” but if he got the opportunity to speak to the A team, what would his message be? “My message would be ‘ye have put yourselves in a great position, we haven’t won anything yet’. St Michael’s are an elite team, they’ve won it before, they are favourites, it’s one game of football, they have proved they are an excellent Cup team, they’ve won away in Dublin, Limerick a couple of times and Waterford, in the last four rounds they’ve beaten two Limerick sides and two Dublin sides, they’ve done something the club has never done in all its history, they should be proud of it and go out play for themselves, the jersey and for us, ultimately that is what you do when you put on a Newmarket Celtic shirt, they will be well organised. I’ve seen some of their matches on video, it wouldn’t be Sky Sports quality but you can see the patterns and that they are well organised, they don’t give away many goals.

“They have the class act of Eoin Hayes, he and David O’Grady are some of the most decorated lads in Clare soccer with what they’ve won, I remember Hayzo coming on the scene when I finished fifteen years ago, he was only a young fella, he won the league twice while I was a player for us on the day with a worldie of a goal out against Bridge Celtic which was never a nice place to go because you’d be kicked around the place and their park wasn’t the best, he was only probably seventeen at the time but he scored into the top corner from thirty five yards, that was my introduction to Eoin Hayes that season. O’Grady is a lad you always want in the club because he is always up for the fight and he loves it, he doesn’t like who you need to not like, they are one club lads. The likes of Seamie Lawlor, Malo, Crusher, myself, we all went off and played with other clubs for a season or two but Hayzo and O’Grady never did, why would they, they were playing for a successful side”.

A winner of two Premier Division titles, Ronan admits that the club is in “a dream” position to be contesting both national and provincial finals. One of the titles he managed to get his hand saw the club end a thirteen year wait for league honours. “When Paudie Cullinan got us together the likes of myself, Frankie McNamara who had a great rugby career, Liam Murphy, Davy Ryan, Seamie Lawlor were in our early thirties, we had a few lads from outside and we knew thirteen years was a long time, it was a dark time so we came and that was the sweetest thing to win the League that year, all credit has to go to Paudie Cullinan, he got Philip Shier involved, I’m hoping Paudie will be able to come to one of the games, he’s had it tough, every time I come home I go and talk to Paudie because he is such a knowledgeable person, a gentleman and great craic”.

Occasions like the weekend will strengthen the draw of home in Urlanmore for Ronan, returning home permanently is part of the long-term plan. “I’m up here and talking to you, we’re not related but have the same cousins, this is where I’d be on a Sunday morning and then down to the A team. While I’m waiting I meet Christy Ryan, a legend I love the man and all the Ryans, then I meet Kieran Collins, at some stage I’ll bump into your father, it’s the family and an extension of family is the sport which draws me to it. Economically it is better where I am, like I said I only went for two years and ten years later I’m still there”.

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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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