There were two things that were obvious in the build up to last Saturday evening’s Oscar Traynor encounter in Doora.
The weather was going to be poor and this Wexford team weren’t coming to Ennis to make up the numbers.
With the exception of the first 15 minutes where Clare threatened with some early set pieces, their performance over the course of the game, like the number of supporters in attendance, was very poor particularly when you consider it was an All Ireland Quarter Final. On paper before the game kicked off, it was obvious that this Clare side, albeit minus the aerial threat of Stephen Kelly, had the potential to claim a home win and book a semi final spot. If I could handpick an attacking quartet from Clare Soccer based on talent and skill, I would most definitely end up with Hayes, Roche, McCarthy and Mahoney as my favoured choice to provide the fire power to beat this Wexford team. It was probably the first time Shane Keegan has had them all on the pitch together but unfortunately what transpired was a case whereby those players were ineffective for one reason or another.
From the early exchanges it had looked like we were going to be in for a long evening of minimal chances and even fewer moments of brilliance as both teams were probing each other. Eoin Hayes causes most defences in the country problems week in week out with his pace but this Wexford defence had him where they wanted and that was running towards the corner flag and chasing lost causes. When he did find some joy, there was always another Wexford defender in support to remove that threat. The visitors had their homework done; they were hungry, were physically aggressive right from the start and were littered with league of Ireland experience around the pitch which showed particularly in the midfield battle.
Ultimately the game was decided by probably the only two pieces of play involving a number of passes and good finishes which the Wexford players duly applied. It is very easy to criticise in hindsight as I well know, but as the game petered out in the damp and dismal conditions, Clare just had no response. They persevered with the same dependence on set pieces. Long throw after long throw was bread and butter to two towering Wexford central defenders who cleared their lines consistently. Dylan Casey’s deliveries from corners and free kicks were dangerous as ever but there comes a time, especially when chasing a game, that you might be better served having one of your best aggressive aerial threats in the box rather than outside standing over the ball. Again, this favoured the visitors all day long. The result was no doubt disappointing to both players and management involved and I’m sure, like our club sides, will have many regrets over another golden opportunity missed to lay claim to some sought after silverware.
This is a big week for youth’s soccer in Clare with the visit to Jackman Park next Sunday to take on a well fancied Limerick team. Clare are a good footballing team and should be smarting from the recent defeat to Galway when they probably should have got some result from that game. Confidence will be riding high after the fantastic performance and result of the Bridge United youths last weekend in the Munster Youths quarter final and they should hold no fear of the opposition.
Finally, on a sad note, Newmarket Celtic lost one of its greats this past weekend. Johnny Sheedy was Mr. Newmarket Celtic and had been involved in every role available in the club at some stage or other. His legacy stretches back to its foundation and because of this, he was well known and respected throughout soccer circles in the county as was evident from the many sympathisers from different Clare clubs at his funeral. He never criticised when losing and never went over the top when winning but was just always there in support. He always took up the same position at Newmarket’s pitch with the rest of the “Ultras” and there will now forever be a void in that corner that will never be replaced. Whilst he was a diehard clubman, he helped out with groundsman duties at the county ground pitch in Doora in years gone by and also had a stint as a referee. It was just a shame that the Clare league did not take the opportunity to honour a friend of Clare soccer with a minutes silence before the Oscar Traynor game on Saturday evening.
May he rest in peace.