Cleary Celtic lift league title after 24 year wait.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Cleary Celtic lift league title after 24 year wait. thumbnail

CHRIS Murphy was the happiest man in Newry on Wednesday night, after guiding his Cleary Celtic team to their first Carnbane League title in 24 years.


Murphy 's side needed just a point in their penultimate league fixture against Rossowen to secure the title, but like all great champions they finished the job off in style, thumping the Rostrevor based side 6-0, thanks to a hat-trick from lethal hitman Neil Barr, a Noel McCoy brace and a goal from Shay McAllister.

And following Saturday's 3-1 win against long time title rivals Villa Rovers, Cleary finished their league season nine points ahead of closest challengers Villa and sixteen points clear of third placed Rossowen.

The Hoops also boasted the highest goalscoring record in the league with 56 scored, and conceded just 17, which was by far the most frugal defensive record.

"Without being disrespectful to anybody I think the nine point gap is just about right," said Murphy.

"We fought for every point we got this season, bar Kilkeel two weeks ago when they couldn't field.

Absolutely every team put it up to us in Carnbane all season and the boys stood up to it. And with one defeat all year it shows.

"It really hasn't sunk in yet. To see how much it means to so many people, it's not just the 15/16 boys playing every week, it means so much to so many others involved in the club. It's so much more than a football team; it's a real good family club.

It means a lot to a lot of people. So to be the manager that's brought that back, well it's very emotional."

One man who has longed for this league success more than most is Cleary legend Denis Crilly, who has been a member of the club for each and every one of the last 24 seasons.

Crilly joined the Celts as a player shortly after they won the league in 1994, before going on to manage the side and is currently the club chairman. He described finally getting his hands on the league trophy "as a proud day".

"It was nice to get it wrapped up before the last day.

When you leave things to the last game you're relying on chance, anything can go wrong, so I'm glad we got it out of the way," admitted Crilly.

"I was proud of every one of the lads, they've put in the work all season. I know how hard it is to win the league, being an ex-player and manager because I never done it, so I know how hard the lads have worked for this and it's a really proud day for me."

Crilly is one of a long list of Cleary players who have spent the vast majority of their playing days at the club.

In the current Cleary crop, the nucleus of the team has remained the same for many years, with the likes of long serving players Robby Quinn, Mark Cahill, Karl Shields, and Paul McElroy all consistent performers.

This season there has also been an emergence of fresh talent at the club in skilful players such as Cathal O'Reilly, Noel McCoy and of course former Newry City striker Neil Barr.

Speaking to the Democrat, club captain McElroy hailed the impact of these new arrivals, while he also praised the will to win mind-set of manager Chris Murphy and his assistant Danny Cushnan.

"Chris and Danny have come in and they've instilled this attitude that we're out to win," he said.

"Nobody has been missing in training which has been brilliant. The new guys have made a difference to the team and Neil Barr up front has been outstanding with 39 goals which speaks for itself.

"I think the best team always comes out on top. I think it showed from the start right to the finish, everything around the club - the training, the management, everything - everybody 's attitude was brilliant from word go, so as I said, the best team always comes out on top. You can see the difference in the points at the top of the table.

"The league table shows we had the best goalscorers and the best defence. The boys we took in this season, from young to old, were all absolutely outstanding.

There's a good range at the club of experienced boys to youth coming through."

Cleary will have undoubtedly enjoyed their celebrations over the weekend, but they must quickly regroup tomorrow (Wednesday) evening for their crucial AOH Cup second round fixture against Ashgrove Rovers.

The two sides have met once already this season in the Fr Davies Cup semi-final when the Hoops were convincing 5-0 victors. But Cleary boss Chris Murphy is expecting a much tougher test this time around and insists his side will be going all out to win the competition, particularly after the disappointments of losing out in the latter stages of the Bessbook and Fr Davies Cups.

"We should have done better for ourselves in the Bessbrook Cup final and we rested a lot of boys in the Fr Davies Cup semi-final, which probably upset the balance of the team, so we'll definitely be giving the AOH Cup our full go.

"I'll be expecting Ashgrove to look to bounce back and learn from the last game, they'll know what to expect this time."

Cleary Celtic title winning squad: Stephen Havern, Conor Hanna, Fergal Lavery, Paul McElroy (skipper), Paul Donegan, Owen Donaghy, Chris Mc- Cormack, Joe McParland, Robby Quinn, Stephen Quinn, Mark McAteer, Noel McCoy, Shay McAllister, Neil Barr, Mark Cahill, Cathal O'Reilly, Adam Higgins, James McParland, Karl Shields, Danny Cushnan, Stephen McDermott


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