*Steven McGann in action against Jack Kelly. Photograph: Joe Buckley

STEVEN MCGANN capped off his first season back in the Clare District Soccer League by getting the winning penalty to help Avenue Utd claim a league and cup double.

Signing McGann at the outset of the season was an indicator that Avenue Utd were bidding to go to new heights, they reached the Munster Junior Cup semi-final before losing out to eventual winners St Michael’s while within the county they went the entire campaign unbeaten to win the double for the second time in three seasons.

On Saturday, they overcame rivals Newmarket Celtic in a penalty shootout with Steven slotting home the decisive penalty to ensure Ronan Kerin would be handed the Ennis Carpets Clare Cup from CDSL Chairman Jason Ryan.

Finishing out the season with both league and cup medals caps off a welcome return back to Avenue. “It was a good season back, the start of the season didn’t work out too well for me, I had an injury that coming back and every time I played it would come back again but after Christmas I got it sorted, it was good to get back in,” he said.

During his time with Pike Rovers, he won two Munster Junior Cups, two League titles, two Lawson Cups and a Tuohy Cup with the Limerick outfit. He may not have been shy in reminding some opponents of a couple of titles he has won during exchanges this season. For a decade, he held a record as the youngest player to ever score in the League of Ireland, he was 15 years and 359 days old when he scored against Athlone Town on the final day of the 2010 season, a record that Kevin Zefi took off him when he scored for Shamrock Rovers at the age of 15 years 206 days in 2020.

Their encounter with Newmarket Celtic was another tough battle, he noted. “Ever since I came it has always been the same when I’ve played Newmarket, we’re both really good sides but the football goes out the window in sudden parts and it becomes a bit of a battle, when it turns into a battle then any of the teams can win it so it was nice to get a win again”.

McGann told The Clare Echo, “When I saw the weather this morning I knew it would be a battle and the pitch would cut up after ten minutes. The first and second ball are massive in these games because if you win the first and second ball you win the right to play and then you show how you’re going to play”.

There was no sense of pressure for the Ennis man when it came to the decisive spot kick. “It’s always nice to win on penalties, it’s nice to get them and get one in the last minute of a penalty shootout to win”.

Getting to take the final penalty was his call. “I had a bit of an argument with Russ, he wanted to put me first but I said no I’ll go fifth, I’ve nine out of nine on penalties so far this year, it’s not too bad”.

Having a gentle word to make various suggestions to Avenue’s manager David Russell is not something Steven will shy back from, as evident from his gentle coaxing in the first half that they needed to have a more offensive approach if they wanted to get a goal. “I’d have words with anyone to be fair, I give my opinion, if he likes it he likes it and if he doesn’t.. I’d always listen to him at the end of it but I thought in the first half we were sitting back a bit much but the gap from the striker where I was playing up top in the first half to midfield was massive and I thought they just overloaded the middle, they were winning second balls and that is how they were getting on top. For the second half, we just talked it out and we pushed up from the first ten to twenty yards extra and I thought we pressed them a lot harder”.

Reflecting back on his return to the Clare league, Steven said, “I knew what it was going to be like, it’s always going to be the same, I used to come and watch games when I was inside in Limerick, it was always Newmarket and Avenue competing for honours, now you have Bridge who are coming again and making it that bit more competitive as we saw in the semi-final, they nearly turned us over but it is still the same in any big game you play, watching Munster Junior and FAI Junior finals, you never see teams that will go out and play unbelievable football, it is always a battle and it’s the same winning trophies”.

Having set up the Steven McGann Coaching Academy last summer, the upcoming off-season will see him kept very occupied on this front. “I’ve a busy off-season, if we get a bit of weather it will help me keep going during the summer, I’m looking forward to a break to be honest, I only played from after Christmas but I’m getting a bit older and it does take a toll on the body so I could do with a bit of a break”.

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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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