Two Clare teams go in search of a place in the quarter-finals of the Munster Junior Cup this afternoon.
Newmarket Celtic and Sporting Ennistymon both face opposition from Limerick, with Celtic travelling to Dooradoyle to take on Regional United, while Sporting welcome Kilmallock to Lahinch.
For the North Clare men, it’s the second year in a row they have been at this stage of the competition after an impressive win on the road over Holycross in the previous round.
Ennistymon boss Paidi Vaughan is looking forward to the occasion.
“It’s a big day for Sporting, we are not like the Newmarket’s and Avenue’s who traditionally get good runs in these competitions. We got this far last year and we know that when you get to a day like this, it’s one to enjoy. It’s big for the game right across North Clare so hopefully we will get a big crowd out to support us” he said.
12 months ago saw Sporting lose out to Limerick opposition at this stage when they went down against a vastly experienced Pike Rovers outfit. Vaughan feels that’s something they will have taken a lot of learnings from.
He said: “Last year we beat Rockmount down in Cork and that was a massive result for us. We played Pike after that and they blew us out of the water, but it was a great learning curve. This year I feel the team has come on a lot, and we have got a few new faces in. It’s still a very young team and the way I look at is that the more days like this we can get to, it’s going to make us better going forward. I’m hoping we can build on last year’s success and make history for the club in reaching a quarter-final”.
Sporting are currently sitting just above the relegation battle in the Premier Division of the Clare League, with just three wins from their opening nine games. Vaughan says their focus at the moment is on their cup campaign both in the province and at home, and then thoughts will revert to that league battle.
“The cups are what we are aiming for right now. We will want to make sure we stay safe in the league but at the moment our full focus is on the cup. Our win the last day out against Holycross has built a real sense of belief in the squad that we can have a good day on Sunday. Kilmallock have to come up to us in Lahinch and we fully believe that we can get the result. The important thing from our point of view is that we don’t let ourselves down, play the way we know we can, and hopefully come away with a big result for the club” he said.
The sports field in Lahinch will play host to the game on Sunday afternoon, with Sporting hoping to make full use of having home advantage. Vaughan admits that at this stage of a competition like the Munster Junior Cup, home comforts can often prove crucial.
“It’s massive because we are used to playing there and we know our pitch inside out. Kilmallock are a side who can play ball but we are used to the conditions. Everyone knows Lahinch can be a windy pitch and not many teams would be used to playing in a setting like that, but we are. We don’t have the effort of having to make a journey, and all those little factors mean what we can just focus on going at them from the word go on Sunday and give it everything we can” he noted.
In an area dominated by GAA, Sporting Ennistymon are a club that draw from traditional rivals such as Ennistymon, St Breckan’s and Kilfenora, with everyone united in the effort for the challenge that lies ahead. Vaughan says they are ready to take their chance.
“There’s a great bond in the squad at the moment. I have enjoyed this year above all others and we have great characters right throughout the panel. Our younger lads have gelled brilliantly with the older fellas and really put their own stamp on it. There’s a real sense of trust between them all and everyone knows each other because they all come from the local area. When you are winning in these kinds of competitions, everyone gets behind it and enjoys it. We know we have nothing to fear on Sunday. Within the squad, we have a real belief that we have the talent to get the result” he concluded.
Meanwhile Newmarket Celtic are bidding to continue their push for silverware on several fronts, with the club already through to the Munster League Champions Trophy final and also within touching distance of the Clare Premier Division title.
Their opponents on Sunday are also still fighting on a number of fronts, as they reached the business end of the FAI Junior Cup in recent weeks.
Newmarket boss Liam Murphy admits they will be facing a high quality opponent.
“They’ve had a fantastic season to date, they’re going well in their league and had a very strong start. They’re in the last eight of the FAI Junior Cup too which is no mean feat. Having that winning momentum can often be so crucial and in particular when it’s coming in the latter stages of these big competitions. It’s easier to get lads out training and the commitment levels go up because everyone wants to be involved. It can be a difficult one to manage though between all those competitions and managing expectations as we found out last year. They’re a very good team and they’ve been together for a good few years so it will certainly be a difficult game” he warned.
Newmarket come into the game after a rare free weekend, and it is something Murphy hopes will have been of benefit to his side.
“We had the disappointment of losing that FAI game to St Michael’s and we had to bounce back pretty quickly from it which was great. We have been going non-stop now for pretty much the bulk of the season so it was nice to recharge the batteries for everyone. We will re-group now and make sure everyone is right for Sunday’s game and hopefully we will have enough to get by. It is going to be a new surface, it’s a new situation and it’s certainly one we are looking forward to. We would have played Regional in a few challenge games but we haven’t crossed paths in quite a while. It’s going to be a new one for us but I’m sure at the same time, both sides will know plenty about each other from being involved in county squads and that kind of thing. It should be a good game between two teams that like to play ball” he predicted.
Despite their FAI Junior Cup exit, Newmarket are facing a hectic schedule in the coming weeks with the business end of the season now firmly in their sights. Having experience of similar situations in recent years is something Murphy hopes will stand to them in that period.
“I say this every year I have been involved that we set a target to still be involved in every competition come January. We passed that one but unfortunately we let a big chance go in the FAI which is something we will look back on with regret. We bounced back and put ourselves in a position where we are now in one final, we are in a good position in the league, we are still in the Clare Cup and we want to get back to the Munster Junior final again too. The next step on that one comes on Sunday and it’s a huge test but one that we are looking forward to. If we get over Sunday, we will be one step closer to another of our goals” he noted.