St Joseph’s Miltown v St Breckan’s @ Cusack Park, Ennis, Saturday 5.15pm
St Joseph’s Miltown served notice in last year’s quarter-final defeat to Éire Óg that they were a coming team – something they have built on in a big way this year, but where St Breckan’s are concerned it’s been a case of coming from nowhere into the reckoning for the Jack Daly.
NOT since 1985 have these two met in a match of such significance.
Back then it was the county final, when St Joseph’s Miltown were appearing in their first final in a decade, while the men from the north country around Lisdoonvarna and Doolin were making a landmark first ever appearance in the county final.
It went the way of the traditional powers of the Clare game that are Miltown, as their four-goal blitz beat St Breckan’s into submission long before the end.
Since then both sides’ big days out have been very few and further in between. St Joseph’s did win another county title in 1990 — a triumph that makes them this year’s silver jubilee team honoured on county final day — and were back in the final the following year only to lose to Doonbeg, while St Breckan’s reached the final frontier once more in 1996 when they also met their match in the Doonbeg Magpies.
Now a couple of football generations on comes the huge opportunity for both — to get back to the biggest day of the year and have a shot at county championship glory.
Miltown haven’t been at this stage since 2000 when they were beaten by Doonbeg, while St Breckan’s were last here in 2005 when Kilmurry Ibrickane were their masters.
To say it’s huge for both clubs is putting it mildly.
St Breckan’s have come from nowhere to this stage — since getting back to the senior ranks in 2010 with a great county intermediate final win over Clondegad they’ve struggled much more often than they’ve contended, their closest shave coming two years ago when they just edged out Wolfe Tones in relegation final epic in Gurteen.
What a transformation in two years, with the spirit and determination they showed in another epic that was their first round game against Lissycasey that went to extra-time being a springboard for what could yet turn out to be something special.
Yes they followed it up by going down to Kilrush Shamrocks, but the barnstorming nature of their comeback against St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield that was sealed by Dale Masterson’s match-winning goal reinvigorated their season once more.
Then came the revenge against the Shams that tees them up for this clash against a St Joseph’s team now finds itself second in the rankings behind Clondegad when it comes to Jack Daly favouritism.
Miltown, for so long in the shadow of near neighbours Kilmurry Ibrickane, see this as their big chance.
Since their 2013 intermediate final win they’ve finally got to the stage where they’re knocking on the door of a senior championship.
If they can do it, it will be in overcoming the adversity of losing Conor Cleary (ankle), Graham Kelly (back) and more recently Seanie Malone (wrist) to injuries.
They answered all the questions on the field, however, and will expect to continue on their winning ways here.
Eoin Cleary is their main man up front — it’s his prodigious scoring returns in the three games to date that have brought Michael Neylon’s charges to the cusp of a first county final appearance in 24 years.
He’s the man that St Breckan’s have to keep the shackles on if they’re to spring another surprise, but certainly the north Clare side managed by Francie Hawes and coached by his son Neil won’t be overawed by the prospect.
All because, the big thing with Breckan’s have this term has been their spirit — their never-say-die married to the very fine footballers they have in their arsenal like Liam Tierney, Maccon Byrne, Dale Masterson and Peter Pan himself in Denis O’Driscoll means that they won’t fear what Miltown throw at them.
Of course the added dimension to this game will be the presence of the Curtin brothers, Eoin and Brian, in the Miltown colours. They cut their teeth as footballers in the St Breckan’s colours before switching over to Miltown many years ago.
Of course it will be mentioned during the 60 minutes. All that matters though is who has the final say. Miltown might just edge it.
Verdict: St Joseph’s Miltown
Paths to the Semi-Final
25 July @ Miltown Malbay
St Breckan’s 1-14 Lissycasey 0-16
15 August @ Miltown Malbay
St Breckan’s 0-7 Kilrush Shamrocks 1-9
30 August @ Corofin
St Breckan’s 2-15
St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield 2-13
13 September @ Miltown Malbay
St Breckan’s 2-9 Kilrush Shamrocks 1-7
St Joseph’s Miltown
1 August @ Quilty
St Joseph’s Miltown 0-13 Doonbeg 0-11
16 August @ Kilmhil
St Joseph’s Miltown 0-11 Ennistymon 0-9
12 September @ Doonbeg
St Joseph’s Miltown 1-13 Ennistymon 0-13