A big week for Clare soccer will kick off on Sunday when the county team will take on Dublin AUL in the final of the Oscar Traynor inter-league competition at the Crumlin astro turf at 2pm.
It’s Clare’s fourth time in the final in modern times and while their opponents, the Leinster Senior League, will start as favourites, there is an air of confidence that the title can be captured for the second time in local soccer history.
When Clare won the crown back in 2004, they beat the Dublin side. That game was played at Ballycasey and the scoreline was 2-1. Stephen Kiernan was in the Dublin line-up on that occasion and he is now part of their management team.
While Clare boss Donie Garrihy won’t name his starting 11 until nearer match time, it will include a good mix of youth and experience.
Team captain Pat Purcell, who will fill a central defensive role and goalkeeper Barry Ryan, have several years of experience in League of Ireland football, while Daryl Eade is a survivor of the winning team from 12 years ago.
In addition the starting line-up is expected to include Darren Murphy (Bridge United), Eoin Hayes, Stephen Kelly and Dave McCarthy (both Newmarket Celtic).
Their clubmate Colin Smith remains a doubt due to injury. He has missed recent games with Newmarket Celtic and is in a race against time to be fit for Sunday. Smith is one of the leading players in the county’s Premier League, so he would be a huge loss if he is unable to play a part in the game.
Over half of the Clare panel have been involved at this level for the past half dozen years which is sure to be another plus for Clare, who tasted defeat against Wexford in the 2010 final and against Dublin AUL two years ago.
Each of the management team of Donie Garrihy, David Russell and Denis Hynes believe the success being enjoyed by Newmarket is a big help to the county.
“Both Newmarket and Clare have helped each other this season and Sunday could be the start of a great week for the Newmarket lads and for Clare soccer. They have put in the effort, they have targetted this and, hopefully, they will get over the line,” Denis Hynes said.
He acknowledges that Clare are facing a big task. “They [Leinster Senior League] have beaten the favourites, AUL, along the way. They have travelled to Inisowen and won. They cannot be taken lightly and it’s going to take a big performance from us if we are to succeed.
Team boss Donie Garrihy accepted that the Dublin side carry the favourites’ tag. “We have been fortunate this season not to have had too many injury problems. Conor Mullen (Avenue United) has been ruled out since the Limerick game and it’s a big blow to both the league and for himself that he is out for the season.
“Colin is a doubt and we are monitoring his fitness ahead of the game,” the Doolin native told The Clare Champion
Clare have gone into games this year as underdogs and they have come away with victory. There is a determination within the group to win this title and they must be given a great chance of being ahead when the final whistle sounds on Sunday.
There is no denying the fact that Clare soccer has made massive leaps in recent years, a fact highlighted by the progress in this competition and of Newmarket Celtic.
Victory on Sunday would further enhance this progress and would be a huge boost to Newemarket Celtic ahead of their Munster Junior Cup final on Saturday week against St Michael’s from Tipperary.