Newmarket Celtic are bidding to move one step closer to the FAI Junior Cup title this weekend.
Liam Murphy takes his charges to Cooke Park in Tipperary on Sunday for a sixth round tie with the home side St Michael’s, with the Clare champions holding the upperhand in this rivalry in recent times.
It is the third time in quick succession that these sides have met, with Newmarket coming through on both previous occasions after a penalty shootout.
They warmed up for Sunday’s tie with an emphatic 7-0 win over Bridge United in the Munster Junior Cup last weekend and Irish junior international Eoin Hayes feels the squad are in a good place ahead of the trip to Tipp.
“It was a good win and really helped us tune up for St Michael’s. We got lads out onto the pitch because we know St Michael’s will offer a very different test, so it was important to get game time because we will need everyone rowing in for this effort,” he stated.
“To score seven goals against the Bridge was pretty good going, so it was great to see lads putting their hands up for selection before such a big game. Lads are hungry now and there’s big competition for places. That’s the way it should be this time of year because the Christmas period can often be a bit difficult to manage, in terms of momentum and it’s all about getting a good run together to get things going again,” Hayes continued.
Newmarket were victorious when they made the trip to Cooke Park last year, when they beat St Michael’s by 5-4 on penalties. Hayes feels having to go into the lion’s den once more will be a huge test.
“We know we are coming into this game as underdogs. A home draw in the FAI Cup is massive and we know we have to bring a performance to match that test. We have plenty experience of St Michael’s and while we have beaten them the last few times, they had our number before that, especially in the Munster junior final in 2016, when they beat us in Doora.
“They’re a team with huge pedigree and plenty of international experience there, so we know it’s going to be a really tough test,” he concluded.
Newmarket were within touching distance of the FAI Junior Cup final last season, before bowing out at the semi-final stage. Hayes admits it is something they want to put right.
“In years gone by, we have reached quarter-finals and semi-finals of the competition and we know how hard it is to win. There are so many quality teams around with the likes of St Michael’s, Pike Rovers and Janesboro to mention just a few, so it’s really hard won.
“No more than other years, we want to just try and get a good run together and see where it takes us,” the St Anne’s Killaloe teacher concluded.
Kick-off on Sunday in Cooke Park Tipperary is at 2pm.