*Mossy and Conor Hehir. Photograph: John Mangan
THEY WILL BE at either side of the field on the Avenue Utd team but the Hehir brothers both share the same confidence that the club is more than capable of replicating its double success.
Avenue Utd had been waiting since 2013 for their first team to win some silverware, they ended that drought last season which also marked the debut year for both Conor and Mossy Hehir with the club’s A team.
Clarification is quickly provided by Mossy that they are brothers but not twins, “There’s a year and a half between us, we don’t look alike. We’ve been called twins before,” the elder Hehir aged 24 outlined. “I still get called Mossy enough anyway,” admitted the younger Conor aged 23, “lads on our team even call me Mossy”. His older brother interjects, “He’s mini-Mossy”.
Conor who graduated from TUS last year in Business with Computing is now working with an Athenry company doing data analysis while Mossy who graduated from UL two years ago is now working as a software automation engineer in Limerick for Kneat, he added, “mine is a bit more techie than his, he is software development and I’m testing”.
“I’d be more business orientated, that’s what I mainly wanted to go into whereas he would be more on the maths side of things, he’d be helping me with that growing up,” Conor told The Clare Echo to which Mossy remarked, “I’m the more intelligent one”. He added that their parents Declan and Antoinette may be more satisfied with Conor’s work around the house rather than his, “I’d be fairly diligent academic wise whereas he wouldn’t be like that, in terms of doing stuff around the house he would be better, I’m a bit lazy that’s according to the parents anyway”.
Living on the Tulla Rd in Roslevan, Mossy gives a background on where they are from, “We’re kind of Ennis like, we played with the An Boirín growing up until U12 but we’re in the Barefield parish, we’re living on the Tulla Rd, I won’t say I’m from town but we’re from Roslevan so we’re Barefield. I gave up the hurling this year just because last year I kept getting injured playing the two and I lost out on both of them so I said I’d hang up the hurley and concentrate on the soccer now”.
Focusing purely on soccer has “been way better,” Mossy admitted. “I haven’t been injured since we stopped hurling, we won the hurling in October, I haven’t been injured once whereas the last two or three years I kept getting injured playing the two, it was too much, just focusing on one needs to be the way for me”.
Their soccer season will finish at the start of June but a return to The Parish is unlikely, “They’d definitely take me back but I don’t know if I’d be able to play senior hurling, I haven’t picked up a hurley since October and I didn’t play then because I was injured”.
Is the lack of injuries aided by players going soft on him in training is the question put to Conor, “that must be it” comes the answer but it’s swiftly dismissed by his brother, “he’s definitely not soft anyway”. Conor added, “I can’t go too hard on him this week, he’s been getting loads of injuries with the hurling and stuff”.
Their competitive nature is well known within the Avenue set-up. “In training there Russ has to put us on the same team because we’d kick the shit out of each other,” Mossy revealed. “I’d kick the shit out of him,” Conor pointed out. “Conor is probably our best defender, you will get infuriated trying to get past him because he is such a good defender,” Mossy believed.
With kind words voiced by Mossy, the opportunity for Conor to pay his older brother a compliment is offered but declined, “He’s stingy like that,” Mossy flagged.
“We’re soccer lads really,” Mossy said when further discussing the decision to step away from hurling. That is encapsulated by the fact that he can still remember the first session he had with the club nearly two decades ago, “I remember when I was five years old my first training session in Lees Rd. We’ve a thing on our new jerseys about the fortieth anniversary, I can remember the twenty fifth even though I was only about six or seven”. He continued, “I don’t know what we would be doing without soccer”.
Mossy continued, “Underage we were always winning the league growing up but we never did well in the FAI, I think our team was too Townie, there was a lot of chatter, we never seemed to go far in the FAI whereas Conor’s team would have. I’m the only lad from my age-group still playing whereas a lot of our team is made up of lads from Conor’s underage team”.
Members of Conor’s team from the time include right-back Cullen McCabe and midfielder Eoghan Thynne while striker Elias Kunz would have been competing against them at Ennis Town with Conor McDaid part of their side but he has since moved onto Newmarket Celtic.
In defence, Conor and Dylan Casey continue at left-back and centre-half respectively while injury has ruled out Conor Mullen giving Dylan Barry the chance to step in while Jamie Roche and last season’s right back Cullen McCabe battle for the number two jersey. Life in defence is different without the experienced Mullen, admitted Conor, “Without him we’re definitely not as loud, he is always leading us. We always go on about the Colga game but he wasn’t playing then, we conceded straight after the goal, he would always say ‘next five’ or ‘next ten’ and we missed him then, he is a massive loss to us but Dylan Barry and Jamie Roche have both stepped in well, we’ve enough players on the bench to step up”.
Both Hehirs will line out in their third Clare Cup final, the first of which was with the club’s B team. “We had a really good team, myself, Conor, Tiny, Cullen moved into that, it split up then. Ronan Lanigan, Manus Doherty and Nathan Rezende would have been on it, loads of lads from Fair Green it was a really good team, I think we should have been on the As at the time, there was a lot of politics going on but we are happy now,” Mossy commented.
Much less politics are evident now, he said, “You could tell there was some tension and disagreements, you wouldn’t know if we were playing with the Bs if the A team wanted us or what the relationship was whereas now the transition is much nicer between Bs and As”.
Making a breakthrough last season was “massive” in the eyes of Conor, “it was big for us, Newmarket have dominated for so long but to get the breakthrough was massive”. Mossy added, “Because we were a new team, it was a new dynamic, we hadn’t played with each other before, there was a really good energy to it, we had nothing to fear, we didn’t fear them and I still think that is the same, I know Newmarket have won the FAI but I don’t think it phases us, we know we can beat them no matter what and we have beaten them before, we can beat them and we can beat Lifford at the weekend”.
A chance to do two in a row in both competitions is something to grab, Conor maintained. “It would be unreal to be fair, looking at all the success Newmarket have had recently it would be good to try get one over them in the League and that can hopefully start by beating Lifford on Saturday to do back to back. We’re trying to get as many medals as we can, the team is at a good age, we’ve physicality and athleticism, we’re as fit as we will ever be and it is all about getting the best of what we have”.
There is a lot to play for with the focus first on Lifford and then Newmarket Celtic in the League but Conor is confident they can upset the FAI Junior Cup champions. “There’s a lot to play for, we’re confident, we know we can beat them, we’re good enough, we just can’t play it into their hands, they are good from set pieces which may not be our strong point but we know we can hurt them. We’ve enough talent up front to cause them problems, if we have to play them twice or whatever we think we can get the job done”.
Nothing is easy against Lifford, Mossy highlighted. “Lifford are the only team to have beaten us in the league in the last two seasons, they beat us at the start of the season, I think we were caught cold, we had injuries and we had new players in, Na had never played with us, Stephen Talty was playing, it was new and they caught us but they are definitely a good team and they can punish us. There is a good rivalry there, they are always tough games, there has never been an easy Lifford game”.
Fast feet are essential when it comes to playing their Ennis rivals, he quipped, “They’ve good wide players, Nathan (Rezende) and Mattie (Davenport) are tricky but we have good full-backs that should be able to deal with them, they’ve experience at the back too. Any time we play Lifford it is always a good fight, they will come with fire, that is the way Lifford are. I wouldn’t be friendly with them, they don’t like me, I’ve got plenty of kicks off them on the field”.
No such issues exist for Conor, “I don’t have too much history with them, he is the one they are kicking when he’s running past them”.
Two of Mossy’s underage teammates, Maurice Nugent and Colm Walsh O’Loghlen are now plying their trade with Galway Utd and Pike Rovers with Colm netting two outstanding goals for the Limerick club on Tuesday to keep their aspirations of Premier Division glory alive. Leaving Avenue is something he has not contemplated, “Well I wouldn’t go anywhere else in Clare, I don’t know if I’m good enough to go anyone else, I was asked to go to another club two years ago. If I was good enough I’d get the call”.