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*The experienced Brian Curtin has been an effective sweeper for St Joseph’s Miltown in recent seasons. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

WITH FIFTEEN Clare senior championships to their name, three of which have come in the last seven years the viewpoint that St Joseph’s Miltown are at risk of failing to make this year’s knockout stages is surprising to say the least.

Undoubtedly they find themselves in a very tough group facing off with reigning senior champions, Éire Óg, last year’s beaten semi-finalists St Breckans and current intermediate winners Corofin where three of the four teams will qualify for the quarter-finals.

Eoin Cleary’s pedigree is respected in football circles across the country and the Clare football captain will be a handful for any defence in the Clare SFC. He is an injury doubt for Saturday’s tie with Corofin, having battled with a broken bone in his hand during the closing games of the championship for the county footballers.

Cleary is held in high regard but so too is former Clare stalwart Gordon Kelly who has been ruled out for the championship with a knee injury, Gordon is a tremendous loss, he has been a great servant to Miltown and to Clare, any county would be delighted to have a player of his ability,” Miltown manager Martin Flynn noted. He added of the county captain, “Eoin is a fantastic player, he has served Miltown and Clare well, if he is out he will be a massive loss, we’re hoping he will be available”.

Kelly is absent and joining him on the sidelines with a knee injury is fellow defender Enda O’Gorman while ex Clare U20 footballer Oisin Looney is currently in the US on a J1.

When these losses are factored in plus the question marks on the fitness of Cleary, Seanie Malone and Cormac Murray, the surprise factor regarding the potential of Miltown not making the quarter-finals fades away somewhat. “it’s a group of death and it will be a struggle to come out,” Martin surmised. Despite this, they will still be able to call upon Darragh McDonagh, Brian Curtin, Conor Cleary and Aidan McGuane.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Flynn was counting up to eight injuries among his panel. “It has been a disastrous year with injuries,” the 1992 Munster championship winner admitted with the amount of challenge games played curtailed in an attempt to not add to the list.

Suffering relegation from the Cusack Cup was a blow but the publican is hopeful that they their selected outfit will be able to click when it’s time to kick ball on Saturday evening in Cusack Park. “The mood has lifted with the Clare lads coming back, it had been difficult when we were missing five or six players the whole time. We’re playing Corofin now and it will be the first time this year that our guys are on the field together. Corofin are going well, they are dangerous and they won’t be a team we will be taking lightly”.

“If we didn’t have as many injuries, we’d be more confident, there is no game to be taken for granted, everyone is capable of beating each other in our group”.

Former Clare ladies football manager, Neil Moynihan is on board as the Miltown coach this season joining Martin for his first season in the role, having previously managed the clubs to success at U16B, Minor B and U21B levels.

Management: Martin Flynn (manager), Neil Moynihan (coach), Michael Ryan, Michael Talty
Captain: Seanie Malone & Gearoid Curtin
Key Player: Eoin Cleary
One to Watch: Sean Neylon
Fresh blood: Sean Neylon, Paul Frawley, Mark Cunningham, Adam Burke, Euan Lineen,
Departures Gate: Gordon Kelly (injury), Enda O’Gorman (injury) – knee problems, Oisin Looney (USA),
Last season’s run: Eliminated in the quarter-finals by St Breckans.
Schedule:
Rnd 1 vs Corofin
Rnd 2 vs St Joseph’s Miltown
Rnd 3 vs St Breckan’s

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