Last weekend saw the Clare Kennedy Cup squad travel to Leicester where they gained great experience training at the Leicester City Academy.
On Friday evening, the Clare squad trained with the Leicester City U13 Academy players under the guidance of Leicester City Assistant Youth Coach Paul Cheney and Leroy Moore. It was a high tempo session and one which the Clare players learned a lot from. Paul Cheney concluded the gathering by praising the Clare squad on their ability, discipline and attitude whilst also encouraging them to push themselves for the upcoming Kennedy Cup.
In preparation for the Kennedy Cup competition, Clare played the Leicester City U14 Academy Squad on Saturday morning with three internationals included in the Foxes’ starting eleven. Clare started the contest well and pressed their opponents and kept forcing them back whilst in possession.
It was a fast-paced affair with the Banner’s enthusiasm giving them a slight edge. Both goalkeepers were tested early on with Michael Garrihy making a fine save with his legs to deny the home side from taking the lead.
With twenty eight minutes played, Clare broke the deadlock. Tomás Coleman won a great tackle and carried the ball into space and slid a through pass to Mark McInerney who tried to cut inside the Leicester defence but the ball broke to Jack Joyce and he took one touch before smashing the ball to the back of the net with some assistance from the post.
Determined to reply, Leicester began pushing players forward but the impressive Clare backline of Odhran Meaney, Emmet McMahon, Chiby Okoye and Avenue’s Gavin D’Auria were superb in reading the play and snuffed out any danger. Ahead of them, Newmarket Celtic’s Callum McNamara alongside Tomás Coleman showed great composure. Manus Doherty on the right side of midfield worked hard to stop any overlap and covered more ground than any other player on the pitch in the first half.
Half time saw the Clare Management make eight changes to ensure all the players benefited from the experience. Clare came under more pressure as Leicester changed their formation to 4-2-4 and tried to pull the Clare defence wider on the pitch. They succeeded and the Clare goal survived a couple of scares when Alan Reidy made an unbelievable right handed save that was heading for the top corner. Alex Collins followed up his timely sliding tackle with a clearance off the line from a corner.
Cillian Casey was marshalling the defence with plenty of vocal instructions that has shown his great development over the last couple of years. Josh Brack had come on at left back and was coming under intense pressure but he kept his shape and managed a couple of timely interceptions. Daniel Kelly and Dylan Brown were working hard to win the ball back and recycled the ball when they did.
Sixteen minutes into the second half with Eihmin O’Daly and Cian McDonough pressing the Leicester team backwards the ball broke to Daniel Kelly and he found the bottom right hand corner of the net with a tidy finish. At this point Leicester brought on their fourth International who proved to be a game-changer and four minutes later they bundled the ball into the net to breathe new life into their legs.
The pace of the game increased and Stephen Talty was working hard for every ball after being moved back into midfield as the pressure came on. In the thirty fifth minute a clinical break down the right-hand side of the Leicester midfield was followed with a cross which was tucked away with a first time finish.
Clare now clearly hanging on could not hold out against their more illustrious opponents conceded a goal in the last minute of the game to ensure it finished 3-2 in Leicester City’s favour. The result may have gone against Clare but the performance against this level of quality opposition should make all those involved very proud.
On Sunday Clare travelled back to Ennis and they now one month away from the Kennedy Cup which commences on June 8th when they take on Galway. Limerick County and Roscommon are also in the same group as the Banner.