*David McCarthy and his brother Martin with the FAI Junior Cup. Photograph: Joe Buckley

TO REACH THE holy grail of junior soccer and win the FAI Junior Cup represented the stuff of dreams for David McCarthy and Newmarket Celtic.

Ennis native McCarthy is in his eighth season with Newmarket Celtic, it works out at about ten years when the pandemic is factored into the equation.

In his lifetime of soccer, securing the national honours is truly special. “This is the greatest day. We’ve had so many close goes in competitions over the years, we’ve had really good success locally in domestic competitions but you dream of going on to win an FAI, I think just standing around here celebrating with all our people it’s everything you would hope and dream of”.

Every season that he has been with Celtic, he has got to line out in Clare Cup finals but Saturday was the first time he experienced playing in a FAI Junior Cup final. To get the coveted reward at the end, surpassed all that he achieved on the field to date.

“I genuinely can’t describe the feeling, I think I’ve gone through it in my head for so many years but this is obviously the closest we’ve got. I captained the side in 2018 when we got to the FAI semi-final and we were so unlucky to lose it, in subsequent years we’ve gone out in earlier rounds and we’ve gone out with a whimper but there was something about the gathering of the group and the rallying of the troops last June. It’s been unbelievable, it’s so good to be here with the crowd of people from the village, it was just a sea of red, every time we looked out there was people cheering for us, we had so much belief and thankfully we came out the right side of this very tense game”.

This season under the tutelage of Paddy Purcell, Eoin O’Brien and Stephen Austin, he felt Celtic were mentally stronger than they had ever been. “We’ve had better technical teams or maybe a stronger eleven on the pitch but this is the best team I’ve seen in terms of mental preparation and the coaching set-up we have. You could go the length and breadth of the country and you won’t find a better trio, that is not just for junior soccer because I think they could operate at a higher level, I don’t want them to go though. Stephen Austin I can’t say enough about the man but Paddy and Eoin’s preparation and overall management of this group of twenty eight or twenty nine players and being able to keep them happy, winning games helps but it’s still difficult because everyone wants to play. I look at my brother (Martin), it’s his second year on the squad, his first full year, he didn’t make the matchday squad so I’d be disappointed for him in that sense but he’s with a group of really good players and I’d hope he would have a lot of years left and continue to grow”.

He continued, “There was just something about this year, we’ve gone into big games all season and I’ve never allowed myself to think we wouldn’t win, maybe in the past I’d have thought what happens if things don’t go our way, I think all the players have bought into that mindset and that is probably why we’ve come out the right side of the penalty shootout whereas in the past we’ve come up short or lose in extra time”.

Always proud of his roots in the county town, David’s successful decade with Newmarket makes him an honorary Newmarket-on-Fergus man. “It’s been a great decision to come down, I love all the boys, they’re really good friends of mine, we’ve soldiered together for club and county with Oscar Traynor campaigns, as any other team when you’re with lads three or four times a week there’s a camaraderie and I’d go to battle with these boys in any game. I look at Eoin Hayes, he’s one of my best friends in sport, we’ve played together all the way up along and to see him lift the trophy is very special, he deserves it, he is a fantastic player and a role model for the people of the village, it is testament to his character that he is still in the Irish junior international setup at this age having done it for so long, I’m delighted for him and everyone in the club”.

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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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