IT could yet turn out to be one of the best seasons in Avondale’s illustrious history.
They secured the Holy Grail of amateur soccer in winning the FAI Intermediate Cup last month and have qualified for every local cup final, but for manager, Ken Bruton, there is a strange sense of regret over the whole season.
Regardless of their success, Bruton leaves the job disappointed that his side did not win the Munster Senior League.
A slow start and injuries to key players at the beginning of the season cost them dearly as he explains.
“It’s been a fantastic year that started somewhat slowly but has built to a crescendo finish,” said Bruton.
“The early start to the league caught us a bit cold as we were late back to pre-season due to injuries and holidays but I always knew that once we settled we had the squad to achieve something special if things fell into place.
“I’m just glad that we did in the cup competitions if not in the league.
“The only disappointment I have this year is how we performed in the league to be honest.
“Don’t get me wrong, winning at the Aviva in a national competition is special but there’s just a tinge of disappointment for me that we didn’t perform as well in the league as we have in cup competitions.
“We’ve been a bit up and down in terms of consistency of performance levels, always pulling out our best on the big one-off days.
“And to me, consistency of performance is important, so because of that the league form did disappoint me.”
Although not winning the league was a huge disappointment for the CIT engineering lecturer, Bruton cannot take away what the lads have achieved this season and he looks back on the cup win in the Aviva with a smile on his face.
“It was an amazing day looking back on it but during it, it’s not something that you can really enjoy.
“I spoke to the lads about the relief that you play for on big occasions more so than the joy and it was very much like that on the sideline too.
“In fact, it’s worse than playing as when you’re playing it’s just your performance you’re concentrating on whereas when you’re managing you’re concerned about every little detail from what time you’re sitting down for breakfast to the setup from corners.
“The way the game went made it more like a game of chess than a game of football.
“The margin of error at that level is so small that every decision you make has an effect no matter how insignificant you think it is.
“We had some injuries in key areas before and during the match which also meant that we were under a bit of pressure late on in the match, and with seven minutes of injury time to navigate, it made things very nervous but thankfully, our guys had the mental strength to see what was a fantastic win out.
“The intermediate cup is very important to us as a club.
“We expect to be competitive in the competition each year so to win it was just massive for everyone associated with the team from the academy to the committee who work so hard to move the club forward each year.
“We were immensely proud to have a number of busloads of academy players there on the day too to give them something to aspire to.
“At the final whistle in the Aviva, I firstly felt immense relief as you put yourself under a lot of pressure in that situation to succeed.
“Once that subsided, I felt pride for what we had achieved and that so many of the academy including my own U11 team were there to see it and then finally a sense of satisfaction that the hard work we put in all year and the sacrifices we made were worth it."
En route to the final they beat Leeside 3-0, Fermoy 1-0, Mayfield 1-0, Cobh Wanderers 1-0, Midleton 2-1 and lastly Rockmount 2-0 in the semi-final.
Last week’s success in the Beamish Cup was also a memorable occasion.
“The character we have in the side is immense and I think that coming from two down at half-time against a very good UCC side showed that.
“It was a fantastic advert for Munster Senior League football with both sides playing good football at a high intensity.
“And don’t forget, that was our third match in five days, so don’t underestimate the fitness and determination it takes to go the distance in extra time in Turner’s cross at that point.
“It was a fantastic feeling to win that game.”
So after three years in the job, the father of two to Ethan and Sam has decided to take a well-deserved break while continuing to bring through the next generation.
“After three years in the job, I’m burned out to be honest.
“To do the job well you need to give it everything. That takes an immense amount of time and energy.
“We train between 89 to 100 times each season and play 50-plus matches. Without my coaching staff of Damien (Roddis) and Dan (Murphy), I don’t think I would have made it through this season to be honest, but I know I need a break from it for now at least to recharge.
“Damien and Dan were the two most important signings of the season. Both were 100% committed and offered a fresh perspective which helped to take us to another level this year.
“Now my intention is to focus on my U11 team and the rest of the academy and it’s continued development for a while.
“I will also wade in from time to time with Micheal Mulconry who coaches the U8s, so I’m still very much involved in the club.”