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Newmarket Celtic Captain, Eoin Hayes.

‘We are very much looking forward to this one’- Eoin Hayes (Clare Cup soccer final preview)

For Eoin Hayes, the hunger never goes and that’s why the most garlanded player in the history of the game in Clare thanks to his exploits for club, county and country is taking this Clare Cup final as seriously as he did his first over a decade ago.
“One thing people might say is that you take things for granted when you win, but when you win nine cups in a row I don’t think you’re taking anything for granted,” says Hayes.
“I might be going for my tenth title but there are a few who haven’t won any and want their first. On a personal level I am 34 years of age and who knows when it will end.
“I know that there are lots of people, for one reason or another and usually it’s injury, step away in their 30s. Thankfully I am still playing at a good level and still have speed and power. Those things are there and as long as they are, the hunger will be there.
“It’s unique in that as soon as the soccer is over the hurling starts — I have always been able to keep in good shape and never have had to rely on my own personal thing where I’ve had to do it on my own.
“I’ve always had a good team in order to keep going so the hunger will always be there as long as I can do it, because I know once it’s gone, it’s gone. Then I will be watching the other lads — I am not sure I’ll enjoy that as much, because it’s all about playing for me and having the hunger for it.“
It’s there, with the haul of silverware that Hayes et al have made room for on the sideboard in the past year alone making them the envy of all-comers, while in no way weighing them down or sating their appetites.
The FAI Junior Cup, the Tom Hand Trophy, the President’s Cup and the Munster League Champions Trophy on their travels outside Clare, while domestically they were Premier League champions last year as well.
“It’s been a long year,” he admits. “Last year there were a lot of long trips — and this year as well. We had a lot of games in Munster. The President’s Cup, the Tom Hand, the Munster League Champions Trophy. It’s been long but that’s part and parcel of competing at the highest level.”
It doesn’t get much bigger in Clare than a Clare Cup final against Avenue United — the game’s two great rivals in Clare, with both having their motivations going into this contest.
Avenue already have the Premier Division title bagged and want to double up, while Newmarket are desperate to end their season on a high — what better way to do that than by beating the old enemy in Frank Healy Park.
“We got to ten cup finals in a row and then we lost to Avenue,” he recalls. “Last year was the first time in ten years we weren’t there.
“In many people’s eyes they might see that momentum has shifted away from us to Avenue, but last year we won the League and they won the Cup.
“This year they won the League so if we won the Cup it would definitely be a very good end to the year. If we could lift the final trophy of the year it would give us good momentum going into next year,” he adds.
There’s nothing between them — Avenue first did a three-in-row in the Clare Cup between 1986 and ’88, while Newmarket with that nine-in-a-row that will never be beaten want to claim the silverware for the first time in three years.
“From a personal point of view it’s not about beating Avenue,” he stresses, “but it’s about what we’re doing ourselves to be honest.
“I always find that if you start to think or obsess about opposition that it starts to consume you and you start to worry about what you’re doing. There is very little thought about them because we’re thinking about what we’re doing ourselves to be honest.
“There will always be one or two tactical things that you will be looking to with the opposition but certainly you wouldn’t be thinking about who’s winning more titles than the other,” he adds.
So it is that when it comes down to it both sides will have confidence, while both have the character and the quality to ensure it will go to the wire.
“It’s the sign of a team that had to show true grit,” says Hayes of Avenue’s come-from-behind win against Bridge United in the semi-final.
“We had to do that ourselves in a lot of the Cup finals we played. You don’t win nine cups in a row without being through a number of tough games.
“We are very much looking forward to this one. It’s going to take calm and focus, hard work and I firmly believe the result will take care of itself.”

About Joe O'Muircheartaigh

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