Of the five FAI Junior Cup third round ties on Sunday, the pick of the bunch is undoubtedly the meeting of Newcastle West Town and Newmarket Celtic in the Demesne at 2 pm.
Newmarket won 6-0 at home to Broadford United in the second round on the last day of September and they did so without the services of their two junior internationals, centre-half Stephen Kelly and attacker Eoin Hayes, both of whom are expected to be available on Sunday. Other players to watch out for are another striker, Gary Higgins, and midfielder Tino Azurra.
With players such as these, it is no surprise that Newmarket are a step above the other teams in Clare at the moment and, on the wider front, they have the quality to threaten to repeat their glorious runs in the FAI Junior Cup and Munster Junior Cup last season, reaching the semi-finals in both competitions.
It will be a big challenge for Peter Clarke’s men against the vaunted visitors but one they will surely relish. Shane Stack, Paul Downes and Seoirse Joyce have the ability to cause problems for Kelly and company, while midfielders Scott Hurley and Noel Callanan will be required to strike the correct balance between setting up attacks and helping out their defence.
The forecast is for Newcastle West to rise to the occasion but to ultimately fall short against one of the best teams in the country at the moment.
Forecast: Newmarket Celtic.
Carrig Celtic (Premier) v Lifford Celtic (Clare Premier)
Carrig Celtic are now managed by vastly-experienced club stalwart, Timmy King. All of their four League games have been played at home, winning two and losing two.
Lifford Celtic are mid-table in the Premier division in Clare. They are a young side who are well-organised and play good football.
On the presumption that Carrig are going to be at full-strength for this important game, I give them a tentative vote to advance.
Forecast: Carrig Celtic
Killeaney/Bally Rovers (Premier) v Shannon Hibs (Clare Division 1)
Under the management of Anthony Collins, Killeaney’Bally Rovers bounced back from losing their first two league games to draw away to Rathkeale and win away to Ballingarry.
Shannon Hibs returned from the Limerick District League three years and have earned two successive promotions to now play in Division 1 of the Clare League. Players to look out for include strong centre-forward Gary Leahy and left-back Chris Lake. If in-form Killeaney/Bally Rovers are at their best they should prevail.
Forecast: Killeaney/Bally Rovers
Castleisland (Kerry Premier A) v Ballingarry (Premier)
Castleisland are not long away from opening their new all-weather pitch and they will do so with a team that is going well in the top flight in Kerry, currently unbeaten with two wins and one draw.
Ballingarry are in a slump at the moment, having lost their last three games, all in the league. They will probably need an easier game than this to record their first victory of the season.
Strand Road (Kerry Division 2A) v Glin Rovers (Premier)
Strand Road are in their second season as a club and won promotion from Division 2B last season. They have been strengthened by signing a few players from now-defunct Tralee Celtic.
Glin Rovers’ mettle was tested in their 3-2 victory at home to Sporting Ennistymon in the second round and that will stand to them for this trip to the Kingdom. Key players are likely to include centre-half and dead-ball specialist, Gary Culhane, powerhouse midfielder Ed Horan and clinical striker Paul Sheehan.
Forecast: Glin Rovers