The Clare U-13 soccer team go in search of national glory this weekend when they make the trip to Mullingar for the Subway SFAI All-Ireland Plate Final.
The young Banner stars have already tasted success this season by winning the Munster Championship Plate in recent weeks, and booked their spot in Saturday’s final with a hard fought 1-0 win over Donegal last time out.
Coach Davy Kerins praised his side for coming through such a tough battle.
He said: “It was tough the last day. Donegal are a quality side and the conditions weren’t great. We were lucky that the long ball over the top fell to Darragh Ball and fair play to him, he finished it well. He showed great confidence to take that chance and the whole team played really well”.
The squad have been training since last September, with coach Wayne Burke having to step aside due to work commitments early in the campaign. That mantle was picked up by Kerins and Paulie Roche, who have guided their charges to this weekend’s decider.
The squad are part of an emerging talent program with the Clare Schoolboys Soccer League, with the ultimate aim being next year’s Kennedy Cup series for this group.
It is a long term project and Kerins admits it would not be possible without the cooperation of everyone involved.
“We would have no teams or squads without the parents. They are the backbone for these young lads to keep bringing them to training, even when the weather is as bad as it has been in recent times. There is a huge amount of travelling involved so we are really grateful to them” he acknowledged.
This weekend’s finals are an annual event in a celebration of underage soccer, and Kerin feels the players deserve all the credit for reaching this stage.
“It is a brilliant achievement for the lads. I have been involved in Clare soccer for a good number of years at this stage and it is the first time getting this far with a group. It is the lads themselves that are really quality players and it is all down to the work that they have put in which has seen them go this far” he noted.
The chance to showcase their talent on the national stage is a great opportunity for these emerging stars, and Kerins is encouraging his side to make the most of the chance to display what they can do.
“The League of Ireland is at U-13 level now so we might lose a few of these lads after this final. That will be good for them because they will be moving on to better training, better coaches and better facilities. I think it is great for them because we have produced some really good players over the year like Harvey Cullinan down in Newmarket. He has gone to England now and we had him as a young lad a few years ago so it means that lads are getting spotted and I am delighted for them. They are going forward in their careers and that is what they should be aiming for” he concluded.
Kick-off on Saturday in Mullingar is at 12.30pm.