*Aiden Davidson dodges the challenge of Enda O’Gorman. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
St Josephs Miltown will “come back stronger” after failing to make the semi-finals of the Clare SFC for a second year in a row.
Winning three titles in a five year window is among the most successful periods for the senior footballers of St Josephs Miltown. But the past two seasons have seen the Miltown men unable to return to the last four stage following quarter-final defeats to Cratloe (2020) and St Breckans (2021).
Michael Neylon returned to the hotseat as Miltown boss this year having previously led the West Clare side to senior glory in 2015 and 2018.
Concession of yellow cards in the opening half showed the pressure their defence was under in Sunday’s quarter-final clash with St Breckans and it resulted in second half dismissals for both Seanie Malone and Gordon Kelly, both of whom are among the most experienced players.
From early on, Miltown were put under enormous pressure by their North Clare opponents, Neylon noted. “We were walking a knife edge once we got a few cards in the first half and we knew something like that might happen (red cards) but it’s not really something you can plan for. We knew coming in that if you gave space to St Breckans, they make very good use of it with an excellent running game, they took advantage of every opportunity they got and we’ve no complaints, we were definitely beaten by the better team, we have to regroup and come back stronger”.
He added, “We came here, we knew it was going to be very tough, we thought it might be a fifty fifty game but from the word go we were on the backfoot, fair play to our lads they kept coming back into it, I have to give huge credit to St Breckans, they were an outstanding team today from start to finish, we found it very hard to break them down, their running and passing game, they are a very together group, that is what wins championship matches”.
Of frustration to Miltown’s followers will be the fact that they never were able to field their strongest team for any championship outing this year due to a wide range of injuries. That said, it wasn’t an excuse for Neylon as he reflected on their exit from the race for Jack Daly. “As a group and as a panel that’s where your panel comes in, you have to be able to cope with one or two injuries, it’s very rare when you get a year that you keep on going and get a full deck everyday but we’re well used to that, we’re prepared for that, Breckans had injuries today, it’s about a full panel and we weren’t good enough today”.
Although their journey for 2021 is over, the men of Miltown are determined to bounce back in 2022, the Clare U20 boss outlined. “They’re role model players in our club, they’ve brought a great culture and honour to our club, young people and old people look up to these boys and these boys will definitely keep on going”.