*Newmarket Celtic’s Stephen Kelly. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

NEWMARKET CELTIC have been boosted in advance of their upcoming FAI and Munster Junior Cup quarter-finals with the return of one of the club’s most experienced players, two players resuming training following injuries and the addition of a new signing.

Stephen Kelly became the first Clare footballer to be named as the FAI Junior International of the Year in 2017, an accolade later picked up by his clubmate Eoin Hayes.

Injury has kept the experienced defender who has represented his country side lined for the entirety of this season but Newmarket Celtic have gained a massive lift with his return to training in recent weeks.

One member of the Celtic management told The Clare Echo that Kelly was “ahead of schedule on his rehabilitation and has returned to light training”.

A problematic ankle injury may restrict the ten-time Clare Cup winner from getting action in the national and provincial competitions but his presence has already strengthened their aspirations in both tournaments plus the Premier Division and Clare Cup.

An Oscar Traynor winning captain for Clare, Stephen’s experience in the heart of the Newmarket defence would come at a vital time. Management are tending to operate with a three-man backline comprised of David O’Grady, Ethan Fitzgerald and Harvey Cullinan, the addition of thirty six year old Kelly would give the possibility of allowing the very promising Cullinan to get a more attacking full-back role.

Darren Cullinan. Photograph: Oliver Fitzpatrick

This experience in defence is important given that former captain Darren Cullinan is also returning from injury. The once regular number three has also had a difficult season with injury but has resumed some level of activity among Paddy Purcell’s squad. The former Wembley Rovers player is Harvey’s uncle and his injury has resulted in the move of the younger Cullinan from central defence to left-back.

Duck as he is better known has been the club’s first choice left back for over a decade and the thirty four year old also brings with him invaluable experience having been part of the side which came up short against Janesboro in the FAI Junior Cup quarter-final.

Kevin Harnett flicks the ball away from Mark Roche. Photograph: Natasha Barton

Ex Clare footballer, Kevin Harnett is also back in light training along with Kelly and Cullinan. The Meelick native has proved to be an outstanding addition to the club and had been featuring regularly since his retirement from inter-county football until sustaining an injury before Christmas.

Harnett’s teak tough tackling and excellent composure on the ball has seen him become an automatic member of the starting eleven when available for selection. In his youth, Kevin lined out with Corbally Utd and Sommerville Rovers.

Eunan Doherty and James Fahy try to win back possession for Newmarket Celtic. Photograph: Natasha Barton

Donegal native, Eunan Doherty signed for the club before the end of 2022, partaking in training sessions over the Christmas period. He made his debut in last weekend’s 1-0 Ennis Carpets Clare Cup second round win over Avenue Utd B.

Like Harnett, he is a keen gaelic footballer. He has been part of the Donegal senior football panel and has been highly influential for his club, Glenties based Naomh Conaill who won the Donegal SFC last year, lining out at wing-forward.

This weekend, Newmarket Celtic welcome Dublin outfit Crumlin Utd to McDonough Memorial Park in Newmarket-on-Fergus in the FAI Junior Cup quarter-final with a home semi-final the reward for Purcell’s side if they can get the result on Sunday.

 

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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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