Sports Editor Seamus Hayes
CLARE have a number of injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s Oscar Traynor Cup semi-final, in which they take on the Kerry League at Tralee (kick-off at 2pm).
Stephen Hickey and Dave McCarthy, two key members of the squad, are battling to be fit. Both did play a part in their respective clubs (Ennis Town and Avenue United) games at the weekend but a final decision on their fitness will not be made until later this week.
Both scored for their clubs on Sunday and both Ennis sides continued their challenge for the Premier League title.
Centre-back Rhys Phillips is almost certain to miss Sunday’s tie after he was injured when playing with Avenue United on Sunday week last. Shane Daniels from Ennis Town is understood to be in contention to replace Phillips for the trip to Tralee but young Paddy O’Malley is also in contention for a starting spot.
According to Clare manager Liam Murphy, “We are coming up against a very experienced Kerry team. They have never won this competition but they are very organised this year and it will take a huge effort to beat them.
“They have a lot of League of Ireland experience in their squad. In their last game, they started with six players with League of Ireland experience. They are the strongest we have met this year and they will provide a huge task for us,” the Newmarket man added.
Clare won this title for the only time in 2004 and they have been in the concluding stages on a number of occasions since then. Last year, they reached the quarter-final stage while, back in 2010, they got to the final before bowing out.
The second semi-final is set for April 30 when the holders, Dublin AUL, take on Inisowen. A date for the final has yet to be announced.
Murphy agrees this is the biggest game of the season so far for Clare soccer. “It will provide us with a good test as to where we are at this stage. Avenue and Newmarket have both being going well in competition outside the county. Newmarket did well last week when they played a Killarney side with a lot of Kerry players on show. Newmarket won and there wasn’t much in it and there won’t be much in it on Sunday either,” he predicted.
“The lads have put in a huge effort over the last two years and I hope, for their sakes, there will be a big attendance. All domestic games have been cancelled which facilitates those who want to support the side and make the journey to Tralee.
“All of our focus is on Sunday and it will take a big effort to go to Kerry and win,” the Clare manager noted.
Supporters will be keeping their fingers crossed that McCarthy and Hickey pass late fitness tests. They will also be looking to John Mulready, Darren Murphy, Eoin Hayes and Stephen Kelly as they look for a final place.