A jam-packed weekend of sport in Clare includes the showpiece event of the Clare soccer calendar as neighbours Newmarket Celtic and Bridge Utd face off in the Prego Menswear Clare Cup Final.
While silverware is certainly the main prize this Saturday evening in the County Grounds, the prospect of creating history is also on offer for Newmarket Celtic as they are ninety minutes away from becoming the first team in Clare to win four Clare Cups in a row. Bridge Utd would like nothing better than to crush Celtic’s dreams and they will be intent to do so when the game kicks off at 19:00.
For Newmarket they are chasing their fourteenth Cup win while a victory for the Sixmilebridge club would secure their fourth ever Cup trophy. Remarkably Saturday’s tie is only the second time the sides have met at the penultimate stage of the competition; Bridge Utd came out on top in the 1977 Final with Tim Crowe getting the all-important match winning goal and time will tell if they can replicate another victory.
Having come second in the Husqvarna Maloney Garden Machinery Premier Division to Newmarket, Bridge Utd will be eager to finish the year on a high and extract some revenge on their dear neighbours in the process.
In his first year as manager, Eoghan McNulty will be quietly satisfied to have led his charges to their first ever Cup final appearance in over twenty three years with the Bridge B team having made the final twice in the last five years only to come up short on both occasions. Indeed McNulty has been successful with underage teams having overseen success at U17 and U19 level with the club.
In their path to the final, the Bridge have defeated West Clare United, Mountshannon Celtic, Avenue Utd, Moher Celtic and Shannon Olympic. In their five Cup outings they have only conceded four goals in four hundred and fifty minutes of football and that is largely down to the fact that John Mulready, one of the best goalkeepers to play in the Clare League wears the number one jersey. In front of him captain, Darren Murphy leads the defence by example and puts in displays that are testament to the fight and passion of the club.
Experience is provided in the lineup through Mark Culbert, Jason Whyte, Jonathan Downes and Anton Mannering. Kevin Kelly, Darragh Fitzgerald, Kieran Quinlan and Pa McMahon add some flair when on the attack while Michael McNamara has been in outstanding form all season hitting twenty goals throughout the League. Eoghan McNulty and his management team of Michael Maxwell and Barry Downes will have rehearsed everything with their side; it’s now just a case of producing a display to do all the preparation justice.
Ninety minutes separate Newmarket Celtic from a place in the history books of local soccer, never has a Clare club won the Cup title four years in a row and that can all change come Saturday evening. After suffering semi-final defeats in both the FAI Junior Cup and Munster Junior Cup, Celtic will be determined to add the Clare Cup to their trophy cabinet to keep the League title company.
Liam Murphy returned to the Newmarket Celtic hotseat after coming so close to Oscar Traynor success with the Clare side, Davy Rvan continues to be Murphy’s partner in crime while Owen McCarthy completes the backroom team. Colin Smyth is unavailable for the Newmarket men as he is currently in America, while the former Avenue man will be a big loss as an attacking midfielder, one of their strengths is that no player is irreplaceable.
Celtic are captained by defender Eoin O’Brien whose communication is vital to the team. He will be joined in defence by Paddy Purcell who will be the most experienced player on the pitch having played in the League of Ireland with Waterford Utd and Limerick, the Oscar Traynor captain will be hoping to add a Clare Cup medal to his collection at the weekend. The workrate of the team is crucial to their success and look no further than Seamie Lawlor, Michael Crosby and Alan Kelly for an example of this.
Up front Eoin Hayes and David McCarthy add a touch of class while hat-trick hero of 2014 Daithí O’Connell and the skilful Alan Brigdale will cause problems for any attack. Youth is provided in the side with the lively duo of Cathal Hayes and Ian Collins who are well able to impact on proceedings.
When it comes to the Cup Final, anything is possible and factors such as the amount of supporters can affect the result. However it would seem that the greater balance and experience of the Newmarket Celtic team should see them over the line and in the process ensure history is made in the County Grounds.