'It was an eye opener for us to see how good they were' - facing up to the kingpins in a first Munster final

Miltown Malbay lost out by nine points on a day of learning in Limerick.

Dr Crokes Johnny Buckley tackled by Miltown-Malbay's Eoin Curtin.
Dr Crokes Johnny Buckley tackled by Miltown-Malbay's Eoin Curtin.
Image: Ken Sutton/INPHO

QUALIFYING FOR A first Munster senior final sparked huge excitement in Miltown Malbay but when they got there they discovered the scale of the challenge at that stage of the competition.

Landing at the Gaelic Grounds for yesterday’s decider saw the West Clare club collide with the might of Dr Crokes, seven-time winners and nine-time finalists, before the 2018 instalment.

St Joseph’s manager Mike Neylon had spent the build-up to the game trying to figure out to halt the progress of the Killarney club but had a better sense of their capabilities after watching them up close.

“From trying to get our heads around them over the last two weeks, it was an eye opener for us to see how good they were.

“In trying to prepare for the last two weeks in every aspect of it, we realised that this is a seriously good team. What we didn’t know is how good we are and we found out today that we’re just not at this level as of yet.

“Crokes have very few weaknesses out there and of course they have the ambition. This is just another day for Crokes, this would have been a huge win for us, it’s another step for the Crokes and onwards they go.”

Miltown Malbay needed a solid start, a chance to feel their way into the game and settle any nerves floating around due to the magnitude of the occasion.

They were hit with the opposite, a nightmare beginning that demonstrated the power of their opponents. Dr Crokes had notched a goal inside three minutes and then chalked up 1-6 without reply.

That was the separating margin at the final whistle, nine points a buffer Dr Crokes enjoyed on the board as the score read 2-9 to 0-15 after that whirlwind beginning.

“That’s the difference, we’ll probably rue that for a long time as we look back,” reflected Neylon.

“Once that ten minutes was over, we got to grips with the game and we probably dominated the next 20 minutes of the game. We needed the start Crokes got to be in this game at half-time. We didn’t get that and we paid the price heavily for it.

“We have the players with the ability to do that (run at them) so we have to give our guys a free hand to use their talents. That’s what we asked them to do today, maybe the systems or the organisation has to go out the window at certain aspects of the game and they have to take the game to the Crokes.

“It worked very well on occasion there, particularly in the last 15 minutes of the first half, we felt we were playing really good football against good opposition.”

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Eoin Cleary and Shane Doolan Miltown Malbay player Eoin Cleary in action against Dr Crokes Shane Doolan. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

So that draws a line under their 2018 campaign. It was still a fruitful one for St Joseph’s, delivering a second Clare crown in four seasons after having endured a 25-year wait after 1990. There was progress in Munster and exposure to a warmer climate of football.

“We came here with ambitions, we came here to see if we could snatch it and we found out that we came up against a better team,” said Neylon.

“We have to use today as a huge learning experience for us. High standard there today and in a lot of aspects of the game we matched them but obviously there was some slickness there on the part of the Crokes that we found it hard to get to grips with.

“It’s our first time at this level, it’s our first provincial final. We’re delighted to be here and if we can learn from today. It’s a great experience for all these players to go out and play a team like the Crokes.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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