*Newmarket Celtic’s Darragh Leahy, Paddy Purcell and Ethan Fitzgerald. Photograph: Joe Buckley

NEWMARKET CELTIC boss, Paddy Purcell was understandably “over the moon” as the club reached the FAI Junior Cup final for the first time.

A dominant display saw the Eoin Hayes captained side defeat Ballynanty Rovers 2-1 in front of an attendance of over 2,500 at Frank Healy Park in Doora on Sunday afternoon. Such was the occasion that some of the spectators were attending their first ever local soccer game.

Cool and calm for the entirety of the contest, Purcell was a very pleased figure at the final whistle. “We’re absolutely delighted. It’s what we were obviously hoping for and had in the back of our head coming up to play here today. And in training all week you’re thinking what way is it going to go so to actually do it and do it inside 90 minutes, we’re just over the moon. I’m so happy for the lads and all the people involved in the club”.

Their attitude was summed by Hayes’ reaction to having an initial shot saved in what proved to be the winning goal, the former centre-half believed. “I thought we started really well for the first 35 or 40 minutes and then we lost our way for about 20 minutes and got a bit ragged. Once they equalised just before half-time, the second half was naturally more cagey I thought and could have gone either way at that stage but thankfully Eoin [Hayes] stepped up, benefitted from a quick throw to turn his man really well and it was a really brilliant finish. I know the first effort was saved but he did really well to react and took it so well at the second attempt so I couldn’t be happier with the attitude and spirit”.

Defensively, he was also content in how the back four of David O’Grady, Ethan Fitzgerald, Harvey Cullinan and Conor McDaid anchored by goalkeeper Shane Cusack, locked up shop in the second half. “We kept our shape really well and I think the only chance that they got the opportunity to break they scored when we got dragged out a small bit. Bar one good half chance in the second half we probably had the better of the chances overall so I was very happy with the defence. You contemplate what you’re going to do or change before the game but we decided to back ourselves and back the players that got us here and thankfully it got us through”.

Jackman Park in Limerick will host the final on Saturday April 29th with a 5pm kickoff. Standing in their way of national glory is Tipperary side, St Michael’s. Purcell noted, “St Michael’s are the old enemy so to speak, there’s a lot of tradition there between the teams and the times we played against them. They are a very, very good team so it’s going to be tough but we’ve got a fe matches ahead of that first so we can’t think about that now. We don’t really care where it’s on either, we’re just delighted to be there”.

They are on the road this weekend to face Skerries in the FAI Senior Cup where it is likely that Purcell and his management team of Eoin O’Brien and Stephen Austin will use the occasion to give players outside the first team a chance to force their hand for inclusion in the Munster Junior Cup semi-final against Fairview Rangers the following week.

“From the homework that we’ve done on them, we know the quality that Skerries have so we’re under no illusion that that’s going to be a completely different proposition next Sunday. We’ll have to assess our own injuries first, Ruddy [Aaron Rudd] hurt his hamstring in the first half and Davy [McCarthy] had to go off with some issues in his legs as well so we’re lucky we have a good sized squad and that we have lads ready to step up when required. We’ve a lot of trust built up in this team so when you do lose one or two players, it’s not detrimental because the quality that’s coming off the bench doesn’t weaken us whatsoever. So we’ve good headaches to come in terms of selections and fitness so who knows what the next few weeks will bring”.

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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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