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Newmarket Celtic's Ronan McCormack and Avenue United's Conor Hehir compete for the ball during the 2022 Clare Cup Final. Photograph by Natasha Barton

‘We know them inside out’ – Ronan Kerin (Clare Cup soccer final preview)

Manager David Russell has mentioned the class of 1986 to ’88 in passing because it’s a reference point for his team as they bid to go where they did in putting three Clare Cup titles, or the Haughey Cup as it was called then and The Avenue have possession of, back-to-back.
The team of John ‘The Man’ O’Connor, Ray Casey, Brian ‘Charlie’ Donnellan, Gearóid Mannion, Johnny Purtill et al – the team that helped make The Avenue the club they are today and became the benchmark for the teams that followed.
And when it comes to taking on the baton and driving things forward this team that Ronan Kerin captains has made considerable strides, firstly by bringing Avenue back to the top in Clare – that translates into chasing down Newmarket Celtic that dominated for a decade and more.
The first big breakthrough was the Clare Cup final win against them two years ago, while they retained it the following year, while the recent Premier Division title win was another major boost as they home on Saturday’s ‘Old Firm’ final in Frank Healy Park.
“We are massively looking forward to it and can’t wait,” says Kerin, “because it’s the old rivals again in Newmarket and in my opinion it’s the best rivalry in the county. Hopefully, we can get a huge crowd at it again.
“We will be confident going into it. We were very lucky in the semi-final after going 1-0 in extra-time but we got two late goals in the last two minutes. That kind of stuff had been happening to us for years against the likes of Newmarket and the old Bridge team so it was good to turn the tables a small bit.
“It shows the character of the team at the moment. That’s all built through the experience of feeling the pain of being on the other side of defeats. We probably deserved the rub of the green for the tough luck that we have had over the years,” he adds.
Kerin is a bulwark of the team – an Irish international, having represented the Irish Defence Forces side for many years and gained experience beyond the borders of Clare, as far away as China, in fact, in his football travels.
“We went there in 2019 to represent the Irish Defence Forces in the World Games,” he recalls. “We ended up reaching the quarter-final and were against conscripted nations and against teams that were bringing professional players.
“It was a great experience at the time. We were getting capped by the FAI which was great because it’s something that every young fella dreams about when playing the game,” he adds.
Armed with this experience Kerin knows what it’s like to take on big teams and in Clare it doesn’t come bigger than Newmarket Celtic that have set the standard for so long.
“Two years ago we beat them 2-1 when they were going for ten and it’s ridiculous when you think about it,” he says.
“Nine in a row is ridiculous; five-in-a-row is even ridiculous, but for them to get to that stage was amazing.
“We were happy to stop the ten in a row and stop them getting into double figures. It was the start of a new era for us, but it shouldn’t have got that far.”
Now it’s Newmarket trying to stop Avenue – to prevent that three-in-a-row and the Premier Division/Clare Cup double that has been the Ennis side’s target since the start of the season.
“You have to take care of basics first and that’s to win the Premier League and then the Cup,” says Kerin.
“That’s the goal that every team should have and then hopefully have a good run in the national competitions.
“It was a difficult season, externally and internally but we kept winning, which was the important thing. We had a few poor results at the start of 2024 – I remember we drew to Shannon Town and we were all kicking ourselves over it but we picked ourselves up.
“Our last eight games were away from home. It was a testament to our players and to our character that we got through it. I think we deserved it in the end,” he adds.
Now, the significant matter of doubling up consumes the team. “We’re going for three-in-a-row, so we want to keep that form going,” he says. “It would be a great thing and it would be a show of progression for the squad if we do win another double.
“That’s a progression in our eyes. It would be great for the club if we can get the job done. We know them inside out at this stage and it comes down to the day.
“It’s always impossible to call on the day between the two sides. We will let it play out to see which team wants it more on the day. You also need that bit of luck
“It will be a great game and I can’t wait for it.”
Everyone with Avenue United and Newmarket Celtic are the same.

About Joe O'Muircheartaigh

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