*Conor Mullen heads the ball of the crossbar. Photograph: Natasha Barton

AVENUE UTD and Newmarket Celtic reignited their rivalry over the weekend but there was inflammable scenes to take attention away from the football.

Avenue Utd 0
Newmarket Celtic 0
Venue: Roslevan

While the latest chapter in the rivalry between Clare’s top two soccer sides may have been dull affair on the field, there was no complaints that matters remained civil for the most part off the field.

Indeed there was complaints before a ball was kicked with Avenue stalwarts annoyed about the lack of media coverage in advance of the weekend. Without question more can be done by all in the press to boost the profile of junior soccer in the county but officers at club and county level cannot have it all their own way and must be able to take the rough with the smooth as those disgruntled Avenue stalwarts were as bothered when the club received national coverage for all the wrong reasons in October at having to start an internal investigation following a major faux-pas.

Barriers were in place along the perimeter of Roslevan for the Premier Division tie between the sides. Installed on the advice of the CDSL, the barriers helped to stop any supporters from forgetting that their role was simply to cheer their team on and not run onto the field as was the case in the FAI Junior Cup meeting between the sides a month ago.

An additional measure included a home and an away section, Avenue’s supporters were on the hill with the Celtic following located in what was previously the centre of the field when Roslevan was the home of St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield. Neutrals who attended the game were faced with a dilemma from the odd on whether they should go to the home or away section.

In what was only Newmarket’s third league outing compared to Avenue’s sixth, the game was of huge importance as a win for the Ennis side would have put them in a very strong position and Newmarket needing another club to take points off them while also ensuring they didn’t drop a point for the remainder of the season.

Although it was Newmarket that can have regrets seeing as they were the more dominant side over the ninety minutes yet had to settle for a draw, they will also be pleased to know they are still in the fight and managed a draw with far from their strongest line-up.

If Avenue are to be constructively critical on inward reflection, they will know they let a gloriously chance slip through their fingers. They waited far too long to freshen things up and admittedly Steven McGann may be recovering from injury but he should have been introduced to the fray a quarter of an hour earlier than he was.

Newmarket had the chance to make a dream start but Tadhg Noonan’s early header was saved. The towering striker is slowly growing into the role and the experience of starting in two derby ties against Avenue is bound to stand to the twenty year old.

Dylan Casey almost manufactured a goal from a free on seven minutes, the bounce of the ball almost deceived the experienced goalkeeper Shane Cusack but panic stations were averted.

Casey’s centre-half colleague, Conor Mullen had their best chance of the encounter. He connected brilliantly with a Gavin Cooney corner but his header was kept out by the crossbar on eleven minutes.

Continuing to threaten, a volley from Nnabuike Nneji though it didn’t hit the target was a powerful shot to keep Celtic on their toes.

With thirty seven minutes on the clock, Elias Kunz was about to get a one on one opportunity but he was deemed to have fouled Colin Smyth, the former Clare Oscar Traynor player was partnering Harvey Cullinan in the spine of the Newmarket defence.

Noonan was involved with Celtic’s best chance at the start of the half and he set Eoin Hayes up for another opportunity on forty three minutes but the Irish international just took a touch too far which saw quick reactions from Luke Woodrow to snatch the ball and keep the sides tied at 0-0 when the half-time whistle sounded.

On the resumption, Newmarket were beginning to exert their authority. Nathan Boaventura had their first chance after Billy McCarthy headed the ball on in his direction but the shot was of no real danger.

Aaron Rudd who is stepping out as one of Celtic’s strongest players this season had the shot of the match but his volley was stopped only by the post on fifty seven minutes. The Shannon native gave an example of what he can do with such shots when scoring for Clare’s Oscar Traynor side in their final game of this year’s competition in the last three weeks.

Noonan again combined with Hayes but Woodrow was once again alert to stop the Newmarket captain on sixty three minutes.

Striker Noonan managed to get a goal on seventy six minutes but he was deemed to be offside and as such it was null and void.

Woodrow pulled off a save entering the final ten minutes of the tie to ensure Aaron Rudd wouldn’t open the scoring.

Just as the game appeared to be going off without any incident, one of the more unlikely suspects was shown a red card by Pa Gleeson. Newmarket substitute, Kevin Harnett was dismissed after what is understood to be a stamp on Dylan Casey which left the visitors with ten men for the final four minutes of normal time.

Then as Avenue were on the attack with Mark Roche about to cut in from the wing while in possession, a second ball was thrown onto the field by a member of the Newmarket Celtic club which forced play to be stopped. The act was far from sportsmanlike and went unpunished with Avenue’s best attack of the half stopped by someone who wasn’t even on the field.

That was the final twist of note in this contest but there will be plenty more drama ahead when the sides meet in 2024.

On this occasion, Eoin Hayes, Jack Kelly, Aaron Rudd and Billy McCarthy did well for Paddy Purcell’s Newmarket while David Russell’s Avenue had strong showings from Dylan Casey, Mark Roche, Conor Mullen and Nnabuike Nneji.

Avenue: Luke Woodrow; Jamie Roche, Conor Mullen, Dylan Casey, Conor Hehir; Nnabuike Nneji; Eoghan Thynne, Gavin Cooney, Ronan Kerin, Mark Roche. Elias Kunz.

Subs: Steven McGann for Kerin (66), Mossy Hehir for Elias (74), Philip Talty for Thynne (87), Dylan Barry for C Hehir (91).

Newmarket: Shane Cusack; Davy Lennon, Colin Smyth, Harvey Cullinan, Billy McCarthy; Conor McDaid; Jack Kelly; Nathan Boaventura, Aaron Rudd, Eoin Hayes, Tadhg Noonan.

Subs: Kevin Harnett for Kelly (75), Cian Foley for Noonan (78), Ronan McCormack for Nathan (78), Keith Shea for Rudd (80) (inj) Cael Gaffney for Billy (91)

Referee: Pa Gleeson

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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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