Jashar Aliu puts in a tackle on Avenue Utd’s Cian O’Dea. Photograph: Natasha Barton

EXPOSURE TO THE PHYSICALITY of junior soccer has primed members of the Ennis Town FC U19 side as they bid for provincial silverware this weekend.

Six to seven members of the U19 starting side have become regulars for the Ennis Town FC senior side competing in the Maloney Hardware Premier Division, hopping off adult players on a weekly basis has strengthened them when it comes to their own age-group.

This is a view endorsed by left-back Sean Perill, “It has definitely stood to us, the physicality has definitely improved for the lads that have been playing with the men. The 19s is a lot easier in comparison but it is still challenging, Tulla beat us and then Shannon beat them, soccer is definitely getting better”.

Similar benefits have also been experienced by Jashar Aliu, “It’s been tough, we’ve played a load of games with the seniors all of us, we’ve been tipping away with them for the years, we’ve had more games, it’s been a good experience to be playing games in the FAI and Munster, it has helped us a lot”.

Both Sean and Jashar along with defender Thomas Collins have been playing with the club since the age of four, working their way through the Ennis Town academy before making the breakthrough at adult level and guiding the U19s to a provincial final appearance.

Perill is hopeful they will return from Cork with a trophy under their arms and in doing so lay down a marker to the rest of the county, particularly Avenue Utd. “That Avenue team is very good, we played them this season three times, we lost all three, they are very good at what they do, our men’s team this year was very young, maybe five or six of us started every game, if we can get more to come through at underage and push more U19s onto senior, next year we will be seniors only and won’t have the underage”.

Game-time for the Éire Óg senior footballers has also been on the agenda for the busy business and sports management student in Athlone, “The semi-final was three or four weeks ago, the past month has gone very fast, a few of us had college exams, we were training too but the last few weeks have gone very fast, it’s final week now”.

He added of Friday’s opponents, “We’ve never came across them before, the only Cork team we’ve played was Rockmount in the quarter-final, we saw Midleton play Tulla in the other semi-final in the county grounds, they looked strong, they are physical so it will be a challenge”.

Overcoming Tramore 5-4 in the semi-final stood out as the turning point in the season for Jashar, “to be honest with you I never thought we’d get into the final. It’s good for Ennis Town to get into the final,” the first year commerce student at NUIG admitted.

Small in stature, Jashar has no intention of backing down from a fight and outlined what his response as central defensive midfielder would be to a bit of abuse on the field from Cork opponents, “If someone says something to you, they will get the crunch,” he joked. “We’ll try stay to our game and win the match”.

Friday’s game will be won and lost on physicality, centre-half Ian McGuane predicted, “Everyone always exchanges words on the pitch, the physical battle is where the game is usually won, if you’re a small bit bigger than him give him a shove to see how he takes it and work from there”.

He has fond memories of their home win over Rockmount in the competition and is hopeful they can repeat the job of another Leeside opponent this weekend. “The coaches are well prepared for it, once they tell us what to do I’m sure we’ll be able to do it”.

“It’s a big achievement but we still have the final to play when you look at it, hopefully it will go our way on the day. Everyone is pure excited and can’t wait to go training, everyone loves an away day,” the Ennis native added.

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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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