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Stephen Kelly struck an extra time winner in the semi-final against Lifford. He is seen celebrating with David McCarthy and Eoin Hayes, with the latter being an injury doubt for the final, according to manager Mark O'Malley. Photograph by John Kelly

O’Malley excited for Celtic’s tilt at ten-in-a-row

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This is where Newmarket Celtic expect to be. In their eyes it’s where they belong. In contention for a fourth successive league and cup double, the reigning champions are keen to assume their place on top of the pile once more.

By the time they arrive at Frank Healy Park for Saturday’s showdown Newmarket Celtic will have gone 4087 days without a defeat in the Banner Carpets and Flooring Clare Cup.

Their dominance of this competition has been nothing short of remarkable with the goal of hitting the magic 10-in-a-row and showing that they are in fact far from finished ruling Clare soccer is motivating them according to manager Mark O’Malley.

“The lads have done this nine years in a row. I’ve been involved in the club all my life and our cup form has always been good. This batch of players have set their stall out. Ten is a nice number. Ten is better than nine. Avenue are a lot stronger than they have been in recent seasons so we are not looking too far ahead.”

“The 10-in-a-row is a huge incentive. This one would be nice and it would be very nice to win both (league and cup). A lot were saying that Newmarket are finished but we have been bringing through youth too. That’s a bit of an incentive. We have two games to win so we want to show that we are not done.”

O’Malley spent six seasons managing Newmarket’s ‘B’ team, guiding them to a Clare Cup final in the 2018/19 season, when they lost to their own ‘A’ side while also helping them win the First Division three years in a row.

In his second full season at the helm of Newmarket’s flagship team, his side have continued to show their consistency on the domestic scene. However, a defeat to Shannon Town last week in the league was not part of the script.

The Newmarket manager believes that a clash between the two most successful clubs in Clare provides the ideal opportunity for his side to bounce back.

“There are always clubs knocking and trying to break through. There has been a rivalry there since both clubs were formed. Neither side have ever been relegated. These clubs have been at the pinnacle of Clare soccer so it promises to be a great game this Saturday.”

At the time of writing, Newmarket Celtic are scheduled to play a Youths Cup quarter final against Tulla United at home on Saturday at 1.30pm.

The reigning Premier Division champions have made a concerted effort to blood new talent with Youth players Tadgh Noonan, Martin McCarthy, Cael Gaffney, James Fahy, David Lennon and Eddie Shaw all seeing game time with Newmarket’s A team.

When questioned on the scheduling of these games, O’Malley admits some of his players potentially playing twice on the same day is not an ideal situation.

“We have a Youth game on Saturday and a few of those players would be involved with the senior side. It’s not an ideal situation for us. I’m not having a go but it’s tough for the young players because it’s a Youth Cup quarter final which is a big game and then the Cup final is another big game for them too.”

“With the debate over Avenue being awarded the two points, it’s not a great look. We have the closest title race in years and a brilliant Cup final in store but some of the outside stuff is taking away slightly from what’s been a great season. We will just worry about ourselves and make sure we are in the best shape possible come Saturday.”

With Eoin Hayes suffering an ankle injury in his side’s league defeat to Shannon Town last weekend, O’Malley doesn’t rule the former FAI Junior International of the Year out of contention but admits the chances of him featuring are “not good”.

The Newmarket manager is aware that his charges are facing the best Avenue side in over a decade. O’Malley has been impressed by what they have done this season both within Clare and on the national scene.

“Avenue have a great manager in David Russell. David O’Grady brings huge experience too. To have lads like that on the line is a huge boost. They have brought in new lads and they are probably a year or two ahead of us in terms of bringing through youth.”

“This season they’ve come on a bit. They’ve had great runs in the FAI and Munster Junior Cups. It is hard to maintain that. The pressure is on them because although it wouldn’t be nice to lose the 10 in a row, this club has shown that it can come back and get back to winning ways.”

“We have to concentrate on our game and I think everybody knows that we are not going down without a fight.”

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