*Eoin Hayes leads the celebrations at Newmarket Celtic’s homecoming in the village of Newmarket-on-Fergus. Photograph: Joe Buckley

CAPTAIN AND MAN OF THE MATCH for the first club from Clare to win the FAI Junior Cup, Eoin Hayes almost had to pinch himself when trying to absorb the magnitude of Newmarket Celtic’s greatest day.

As he always is, Eoin was to the fore for Newmarket Celtic, winning the first half penalty which Harvey Cullinan calmly dispatched, constantly causing problems with his electric pace and stepping up with one of the five successfully converted penalties in the shootout to see Newmarket Celtic claim the top prize in junior soccer.

Reflecting on their win over Tipperary side, St Michael’s AFC, Hayes said, “I’ve had great days in sport thankfully, I’ve had some bad days but the bad days just go away when you play a game like this, it was typical junior football, attritional, hard tackles, the odd goal in it, penalties, that’s just the way football is, sometimes you have good quality, other times it’s not as good but I think our quality shone in the end, I know we were a man up but we kept the ball, they had a few chances but we have Shane Cusack in goals and we’re on about quality, it was just incredible, the greatest day”.

As was referenced by David McCarthy, Celtic have showed a greater mental strength this season. It’s a view echoed by Eoin, “In sport sometimes you know you’re better but then nerves kick in and the occasion can get the better of you but what happens then is things like the end when I gave a terrible pass into midfield and things like that happen when you’re not expecting it but that is just sport”.

Their stability was never as evident as the shootout. “We showed our composure in the penalty shootout, did you see Ronnie Mc’s penalty with the stuttered runup that was just unbelievable and we’re not surprised he did that. When Stephen was going up to take the penalty I was like ‘Oh Jees I don’t know’ but then Ronnie says to me ‘No, he’s the most confident person I’ve ever seen, he’s definitely going to score’. I always felt Shane was going to save one so it was just about us scoring ours and we took good penalties”.

Hayes may have had a differing view to manager Paddy Purcell on the need to practice penalties at their final training session on Thursday night but even despite his extra work after the rest of the squad had departed McDonagh Memorial Park, Eoin still changed his mind on where he was going to stick his penalty in the final seconds before stepping up to the spot. “I wanted to practice them on Thursday but Paddy said ‘we’re not practicing them’ so I just stayed back and took a few, I was hitting them all bottom right but I had to change at end because I felt he was going that way, he went that way and saved a penalty in that corner for a Munster final ages ago. It’s just incredible”.

Readers of The Clare Echo got a taste of how close the Hayes and Sheedy family are and the central role they play within the club, in advance of the FAI Junior Cup. It’s why as Stephen Kelly banged in the winning penalty that Eoin was scanning Jackman Park to find his wife Viv and family members.

His mother Catherine made the trip to Limerick for the game and is certainly proving to be a lucky charm so far as meetings of Newmarket Celtic and St Michael’s are concerned. “Poor Mam, she is on her last nerves, she had to go away, all my family is surrounding me. I’m having to walk past people that I’m hugging, I couldn’t find my wife after the game but thankfully I found her, she knows what it’s like at home, it’s Newmarket Celtic and sport which consumes my life, everything I do is for this, she’s had to sacrifice an awful lot for me, she is more nervous but on the flipside more jubilant and joyous than anyone here, I’m looking at her and she’s smiling back at me, it’s just a great day”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

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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