*David McCarthy squares off with Dylan Casey. Photograph: Natasha Barton

FACING INTO a first season in over a decade without silverware, the job of motivating Newmarket Celtic could not have been easier.

Defeated by Avenue Utd following a flat display in the Clare Cup final, Newmarket Celtic also lost the Premier Division title when Dylan Casey managed to secure a draw in Roslevan, an outcome that certainly isn’t forgotten in the minds of those involved with the Newmarket-on-Fergus club.

Considered a great in the League of Ireland, Paddy Purcell has hung up his playing boots at the age of 42. The former Limerick FC captain who also enjoyed spells with Waterford United FC was dubbed ‘the Shannonside Superman’ and following on him from his LOI exploits, he captained Clare to Oscar Traynor glory and formed a central part of the Newmarket Celtic defence as they made history by becoming the first club in the county to win nine Clare Cups in a row.

He has succeeded another Celtic great in the hotseat taking over from Mark O’Malley. The return of Stephen Austin as coach is a move warmly welcomed in the club with the Shannon man previously involved under a different management.

Given the disappointment of surrendering their titles to Avenue Utd in both competitions, Newmarket have had to reflect and with that came the decision to bolster their squad. Dean Hegarty, Jashar Aliu and Sean Perrill have been snapped up from Ennis Town FC’s U19 side which lost out to Midleton FC in the Munster Final, Jack Kelly and Darragh Leahy have signed from Shannon Town and Shannon Hibs respectively, Billy McNamara has joined the club from Aisling Annacotty while both Ian Collins and Colum Treacy have returned.

Further additions cannot be ruled out while Eoin O’Brien, Stephen Kelly, Aaron Rudd, Pa McDaid and Cael Gaffney remain sidelined with injury and their involvement this season is questionable.

Purcell admitted that the wounds from last season are still evident within the squad. “We were disappointed with ourselves last season more than anything else, we felt we lost the league and Cup through our own faults much as anything else. Our focus is to try bring the youths through and build for the future. We have a lot of lads with injuries, we brought in some good young players and we are looking for them to get a good season under their belt, we are looking at a transition season”.

Diving into management fresh from retirement has “been interesting,” he admitted. “I’m learning a lot and I’m enjoying it, I absolutely miss getting ready for games and the training side, it’s an interesting dynamic, you’re going to miss playing but that’s part and parcel of football, we’ve a very good pre-season done, the energy has been very positive which has made the transition easier, Stephen Austin has been a great addition, he has fantastic coaching experience”.

Along with Austin, new personnel on the playing side have freshened things up at McDonagh Memorial Park. “Most seasons there’s always other codes being played and lads on holidays and it’s not too long since last season finished, all of them have added something different, we are looking forward to seeing more of everybody, the hurling and football will be over in a month or two and our focus will be entirely on that”.

Elias Kunz controls the ball under pressure from Paddy Purcell. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

He confirmed that one or two players are still in their sights as potential signings, “We’re 95% finalised, there’s one or two that we’re still talking to but the important thing for me in bringing someone to the club to is their character and their ability to gel with the players, we are still talking to one or two but they have to be right for us”.

Exposure to first-team football was gained by players such as Davy Lennon, Cael Gaffney, Tadhg Noonan and Martin McCarthy last season, they along with Lee Cregan and James Fahy will be given their crack once again, Purcell said. “I’ve been trying to influence lads over the last number of years, looking across to various managers I’ve played under the years and taking pieces from them and try instil that to group and build the confidence of younger players. I was lucky myself that I entrusted to play men’s football from a young age, we’ve some really impressive young guys coming through. With the right mix around them, there’s no reason they can’t play a big part for our season ahead”.

With a focus on transition, the ex centre-half told The Clare Echo that it may prompt Newmarket Celtic to ‘temper their expectations’ for this season when it comes to the FAI and Munster Junior Cups, particularly. “You always want to progress as well as you can in all competition, that’s an undercurrent in all we do, we’re realistic and in a transition phase, we have to temper our expectations and aspirations compared with seasons before. The ambition and hunger is still there, every player wants to do well but our expectations have to be curtailed”.

Newmarket Celtic A:
Management: Paddy Purcell (manager), Stephen Austin (coach), Eoin O’Brien
Captain: Eoin Hayes
Key Player: Eoin Hayes
One to Watch: Billy McNamara
Fresh blood: James Fahy, Lee Cregan, Jack Kelly (signed from Shannon Town Utd), Dean Hegarty (signed from Ennis Town FC), Sean Perill (signed from Ennis Town FC), Jashar Aliu (signed from Ennis Town FC), Colum Treacy (signed from Shannon Town Utd), Billy McNamara (signed from Aisling Annacotty), Ian Collins (returns from Shannon Town Utd), Darragh Leahy (signed from Shannon Hibs)
Departures Gate: Paddy Purcell (retired)

 

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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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