*Avenue Utd celebrate their Clare Cup success. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

HAVING WON FOUR CLARE CUPS and Premier Division medals in his playing days, David Russell was a beaming figure on Saturday evening to collect his first piece of silverware as manager of Avenue Utd’s first team.

A deserved 2-1 victory saw Avenue Utd overcome rivals Newmarket Celtic in a sun-drenched Frank Healy Park with goals from Elias Kunz and Eoghan Thynne setting them on their way.

There was no doubt in Russell’s mind that the win marked a turning point in the history of the Ennis club. “I’ve said it a couple of times, Dylan Casey said it in the speech ‘Avenue are back’, it’s a statement we’ve put down against the Cup and League champions, it’s been three years in the making, Dylan is right we are back, we are on the upward curve”.

Two goals inside the opening twenty minutes gave Avenue a dream start. Confident in the fitness of the squad, the main worry for the former centre-half was for his charges to keep their composure, which they certainly did. “We said it before the game, our conditioning and fitness has been top notch and nobody has lived with us, when we get a good start we go well but we can also finish off games in the last fifteen minutes with our conditioning too, we never felt under pressure, we knew Newmarket’s pedigree, they’ve been behind in three of their Cup finals in the last nine years and come back to win them, we were calm and composed at half time, we weren’t going to lose our nerve or drop deep, it showed there and we were well deserved winners”.

Signing Elias Kunz at the start of the season has helped them reclaim the Cup while Stephen Jordan’s impact was really visible on the right wing given a trojan like performance along with Eoghan Thynne who made the step-up from the Avenue B side last season. “Stephen Jordan has worked his backside off since he came in here, he has come in as a young man playing in the Second Division with Manus, he’s been an absolute credit with his work ethic and workrate, his commitment to the squad and overall attitude has been top notch. Dylan Barry is another young man to have come in, Callum Barrett only turned eighteen, the four lads from the B team, we’ve married a squad of twenty together which has been outstanding. The experienced lads like Alan Roche have been here for ten or twelve years, he deserves this, it’s a fitting end to our Cup campaign but we’ve to get ready and set for a big League finale”.

That finale on Wednesday needs them to just draw to do the double, finishing the job is essential to ensure their momentum isn’t stalled, the Clarecastle native stressed. “We are fully focused. We’ll have a couple of pints but we are fully focused on Wednesday night, this is the building blocks for the future, we’re looking to the future, our average age on the panel is 23, everybody is fit and eager, they’re already talking about retaining the Cup which is the sign of a winner, not just resting on your laurels and enjoying it for the next couple of weeks. We’re going to win the League on Wednesday night and go again”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Oscar Traynor medallist admitted that the final whistle often serves as an anti-climax for him as manager. “As a manager in some ways it is nearly an anti-climax, the minute the match is over I’m nice and calm, I’m not jumping or roaring, during the game I’m over-excited but the minute it’s over I’m really calm, I’m already looking forward to Monday’s training to set it up and then Wednesday’s game, it’s a completely different feeling to being a player, I won it a couple of times and it was brilliant, as a manager you can step back, be a bit detached from it and absorb it from an overall perspective, I’m delighted, I’d great help from David O’Grady and Eamon Reilly, we worked our backsides off to be honest, I’m glad for the players and for Avenue that we’re back at the top table”.

Already with one eye on next season, he believed Avenue would be the top side but was wary of the challenges that lie in their path. “Ennis Town was a major achievement getting to the Munster Final, they came out the wrong side of a 3-0 defeat to a fancied team, they’re on an upward curve and we’ll look out for them next season, Bridge Utd are going to be very good, they gave us a real battle, Newmarket still have proven winners so there is no given certainty that they are going to fall away, we’re at where we are and we look forward to the next few days”.

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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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