An Easter bonanza of top-class soccer in the county kicks off with the FAI Junior Cup Semi-Final in Cooke Park, Tipp town on Easter Saturday at 5pm. This will be an historic occasion as both Clonmel Celtic and Kilbarrack United from Dublin will be making their debut at this stage of the blue riband trophy of one of the biggest knock-out competitions in Europe.
When the TSDL season kicked off last August few would have predicted that Clonmel Celtic, and not former winners St. Michael’s, Clonmel Town or Carrick United, would be flying the flag proudly for the Premier County going into the last four of the most sought-after trophy in junior football. However Celtic have proved the pundits wrong with a number of very impressive performance to date and are they have reached this stage on merit.
Celtic’s long road to the semi-finals started with a number of away victories; 2-1 to Cloughjordan in Round 2 and 4-1 to Borrisokane in Round 3. However it was in Round 4 that people began to take notice as they hammered neighbours and 1994 winners Clonmel Town 5-1 to qualify for the last 64. Celtic made it to Round 5 with a 1-0 victory at home to Glenea United from Donegal and then beat Highview Athletic from Kilkenny 5-1 to reach the last 16.
With 1974 winners and finalists for the last two seasons, St. Michael’s, as well as Peake Villa falling by the wayside, Celtic continued to fly the flag for the TSDL with a 3-1 victory over Trinity Corinthians. Their biggest challenge to date came when they made their debut in the quarter-finals and sent shockwaves around the soccer fraternity by knocking out holders Pike Rovers on their own patch on the banks of the Shannon on a 3-2 scoreline to become the only side outside of Dublin to make the semi-finals this season.
Can Clonmel Celtic make further history by reaching the final of this prestigious trophy for the first time in their short history? Standing in their way is Dublin AUL side Kilbarrack United. They were founded in 1970, they hail from the North side of Dublin and compete in the same Premier A Division as Sheriff YC and Ballymun United, who meet in the other semi-final. Kilbarrack are having their best season for many a year, as they’re through to the quarter-finals of the Leinster Junior Cup and have been beaten just once in the league. Having seen off Carrick United 1-0 in Carrick-on-Suir in the last 16 they will prove to be stern opposition. While they don’t score many goals they don’t concede many either.
If Celtic have psychologically overcome the drubbing they received from Janesboro in the Munster Junior Cupout of their system they have the ability, even if it goes all the way to the wire, to become the latest Tipperary side to reach the final of Europe’s biggest knock-out competition.