By Seamus Hayes
Ennis Town Rock A manager Francis Daniels is no stranger to cup final day and he is well versed on what it takes to compete at this level.
Back in 2008 he was team captain when Rock Rovers captured the title, beating Bunratty in the final. A win o n Saturday evening would see him join a select group who have captained and managed cup winning sides.
Current panel members Shane Daniels, Barry Woods and Ronan Judge were also part of that cup winning side. Ennis Town and Rock Rovers joined forces in 2012 and have made steady progress since then although manager Francis is quick to point out “we didn’t have a good year last season when we were in a relegation battle in the league and were knocked out of the cup at an early stage”.
“We set out this season with the aid of not being involved in relegation and of getting a good cup run and so far so good”, Daniels told the Clare Champion this week. His side is very much in the running for the premier league title as well as having qualified for Saturday evening’s cup final against Newmarket Celtic A.
“We would be seen as the outsiders of those still in the running for the league title”, he said before adding “if we win our remaining games we can win the title but it won’t be easy”. Amongst those they have yet to play as Avenue United A whom they beat in the cup semi-final and Newmarket Celtic A, their cup final opponents.
“We have great lads coming through and we are really building for the future. Our academy is doing great work while our B team which has just won promotion is very young. We are progressing up along the line and our aim is to build a strong club by working hard with all these age groups”, the junior A team manager said.
Looking to Saturday evening’s final he said “we are up against Newmarket who will be very hard to beat. They have an experienced side and they are a strong club. Look we are delighted to be in the final and we aim to enjoy the day. We don’t get to play in too many cup finals”.
For Saturday’s game Ennis Town Rock will be without a number of players who have been regulars throughout this and recent seasons. “Four of our panel, all of whom would probably be in the starting line up if they were available, are currently in the U.S.. Our goalkeeper Ciaran MacMathuna went last week as did Joe Collins while Graham Glynn and Aaron Fitzgerald went two weeks ago. Thankfully, we have a strong squad”, said Daniels who is in his first season as team manager. Incidentally he is assisted by Rowan Eade who was also a member of the cup winning Rock Rovers side in 2008 and by Davy Considine, both former players with the club.
Arguably the club’s most experienced player is Stephen Hickey, the team captain, who is a former League of Ireland player. “He has s cored some crucial goals for us this season. Shane Daniels is another of the team’s more experienced players. He is battling to be fit for Saturday’s final and club officials and followers are confident that he will be ready to take his place in the starting line up.
“It’s a big occasion but we are looking forward to the game and to having a big following at the county grounds. Our club is growing and this cup final appearance will help us continue to develop”, the manager concluded.