*Avenue Utd celebrating retaining the Ennis Carpets Clare Cup. Photograph: Joe Buckley

AVENUE UTD have “no shortage of hunger” as they bid to win back the Premier Division title from Newmarket Celtic.

For Avenue Utd watching their rivals Newmarket Celtic lift the FAI Junior Cup has lit a fire underneath them. Not many hours after Celtic overcame St Michael’s AFC in the national decider, Avenue boss David Russell sent a text into their WhatsApp group with the message saying, ‘I hoped it would drive every one of you on to further yourselves better in the rest of the season, the off-season and the start of next season to aspire to be national champions like they’ve done’.

Avenue Utd boss David Russell and new signing Steven McGann.

That fire has seen Avenue attract one of the top signings in the CDSL in recent years with the addition of Steven McGann from Pike Rovers. “Steven works with Hustle and Conor Mullen, he has his finger on the pulse, his mother is my son Aidan’s godmother, he is having a second child in the next couple of weeks and feels he needs to be based locally seeing as he is living in Quin. He knows the capability of the squad, he is a very positive influence in training and is always driving the younger lads but also the older lads by pulling up the standards in the training. He is a huge influence and will hopefully be a huge addition, he is getting on well with Na on and off the field so hopefully their partnership in midfield will form a vital part of our season”.

Ronan Kerin is the new Avenue Utd captain. Photograph: Joe Buckley

Russell has returned for his fifth year as manager, Oliver Fitzpatrick has returned for a second year as assistant manager while the long-serving David O’Grady a two-time Munster Junior Cup and an FAI Junior Cup medallist with Pike Rovers from 2011 continues in the same role. Joining them is Dutch native Patrick Ernest as coach.

Competing in the Hugh Kelly Cup was treated as an important aspect of their pre-season, the Clarecastle native said. “We had a great pre-season, we played four games and remained unbeaten, we wanted to play the league cup some teams didn’t but we used it as a vital pre-season. We’ve qualified for the final and we’re waiting on the other side to finish off their side, we took it serious”.

Last season saw Avenue retain the Clare Cup crown but they let go of their grip on the Premier Division title, coming up short in a play-off to Newmarket Celtic. “The chat in the dressing room after winning the Cup was we’ve won it twice so let’s go after the three in a row. We were very disappointed to lose the league, the loss of three starters for the play-off game had a massive influence in the result and the timing in dragging it out was unfortunate. We’ve no shortage of hunger and we he hope to get the title back now that Newmarket are weakened by the loss of Darragh Leahy”.

Coupled with this is an ambition for the Roslevan based club to push on in both the Munster and FAI Junior Cups. “It’s all very well getting to last sixteen of both, we’re aspiring to get higher, Newmarket have shown what you can do with favourable draws and resilience, if Newmarket never won it we’d aspire to go as high as we can, but it’s a bigger push for us now, if it means getting past them in earlier rounds so be it, we’re looking to get passed the last 16 and further, we are looking to get passed the bigger stages”.

Younger players of Russell’s starting eleven such as Eoghan Thynne, Cullen McCabe and the Hehir brothers Conor and Mossy also possess a fair degree of experience. “These lads that came up from B team, they played a Cup final the year before we started winning it, they’ve brought huge enthusiasm, Conor and Mossy haven’t missed ten sessions between them in two years, they bring an infectious enthusiasm that brings the whole squad together, they vital aspects of our squad because of their commitment”.

Conor Mullen. Photograph: Natasha Barton

Another integral part of their squad is two-time Oscar Traynor winner, Conor Mullen. The defender has recovered from a knee injury and is edging closer to game-time for the first time since February. “He has been out for six months, he got injured badly in Colga, he is back now and has four full sessions under his belt, Conor being Conor wanted to be back ASAP so we’re trying to temper what levels he is at, he a huge addition, his leadership and attitude is second to none”.

Avenue Utd:
Management: David Russell (manager), David O’Grady (asst manager), Oliver Fitzpatrick (asst manager), Patrick Ernest (coach).
Captain: Ronan Kerin
Key Player: Steven McGann
One to Watch: Zakaria Kebayli
Fresh Blood: Steven McGann (signed from Pike Rovers), James Tierney, Ben McDonagh, Zakaria Kebayli, Dario Fernandez.
Departures Gate: None
Last season’s run: Retained Clare Cup title, lost out in Premier Division title deciding play-off to Newmarket Celtic, eliminated by Colga FC in last 16 of FAI Junior Cup, beaten by Newmarket Celtic in third round of Munster Junior Cup.

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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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