There may not be any action for fans of Clare soccer to look forward to for some time yet on the local scene, but there is sure to be plenty Banner interest when this season’s Airtricity League action gets underway.
March 26 will see Limerick based Treaty United begin their First Division campaign with a trip to Bray Wanderers, with five Clare players being part of the squad.
Sixmilebridge resident and former Limerick FC manager Tommy Barrett takes charge of the side, with the club assembling their squad for the season ahead in a matter of just a few days following late notification of their acceptance into the league. Treaty United, which was only formed this year, will replace the Shamrock Rovers second string in the First Division.
Barrett, who lined out for Bridge United in the Clare Premier Division in recent years, has used his knowledge of the Clare league scene to recruit some of the top players in the county.
Former Oscar Traynor winner with Clare Joe Collins and Shannon native Jack Lynch have plenty experience at this level with Galway United and Waterford FC. Between them, they have accrued almost 150 appearances in the League of Ireland ranks.
Current Clare Premier Division kingpins Newmarket Celtic have seen three of their players make the move to the League of Ireland as goalkeeper Shane Cusack along with Kieran Mahony and Callum McNamara have all signed on the dotted line. Of those three, Cusack is the only one with previous experience at that level having played with both Athlone Town and Limerick FC. Mahony and McNamara are making that step for the first time in their careers, but their new manager is confident they will be equipped to find their feet.
“It was a bit rushed and we had to get out business done in a few days so we are looking forward to getting going now. We have nothing to lose really now at this stage so we just have to get on with and give it our best shot which is all we can do. It is great to get back on the pitch and having the lads back out playing is the most important thing. All the pre-season stuff was condensed which might turn out to be a good thing. I knew Joe Collins from the ETB programme and I coached him on that. I had Jack Lynch with the U-19’s. I know Kieran Mahony through the ETB from years ago and I had Shane Cusack when he was in Limerick before. I had an eye on Callum for the Limerick U-17’s and he has come on a lot so we know them all fairly well. Shane, Joe and Jack have all had good experience so they will be fine. We have not seen much of Kieran because he had a foot problem recently which will keep him out for a week or two. Callum is young lad and it will be tough for him but he has time on his side and I am sure he will get plenty support from the lads around him” he said.
Barrett outlined that the opportunities for more Banner ballers to join their ranks will always be there, and praised the standard of player being produced in the county.
“We have always had lads from Clare with the Limerick U-19’s and around the senior team too. The game is strong in Clare and you can see that with the likes of Newmarket Celtic who have done really well provincially and nationally. We have a good spread across the region in terms of players so that sends the message for lads, including from Clare, that if they are going well for their club sides then that chance to take the next step will be there for them. You could see over the last week when we got back training that they were very high energy sessions and lads were releasing a lot of energy. The pace was frantic at time and the tackles were flying in. It was like letting small children out for their break from school at one stage so you could see how glad they were to get back out onto the pitch, in the fresh air and do what they love so that is a real positive” he said.
The season got underway this week with a midweek friendly against Waterford, but Barrett is warning that the focus will be on finding their feet in a competitive division when the league gets underway at the end of the month.
“We will be taking it just one game at a time, which I know is a cliché but that is how it is for us. We are new and fresh and it is hard to know what we will be like. The First Division is really strong and there a few full time teams in there so the standard will be really high. We are going in as an amateur team but as I said earlier, we can go in and have nothing to lose and give it a crack which is all we can do” he noted.
Barrett is also joined in his management team by former Clare Oscar Traynor boss Mick Shiel. He recently departed his post at Pike Rovers, and is now taking up the role of strength and conditioning coach.