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Millstreet are up against it


Millstreet's Michael Vaughan looks to go around Naomh Eoin's Gavin Magnier and start an attack for his side during the Munster Junior Football 1/4 Final last weekend

Millstreet's Michael Vaughan looks to go around Naomh Eoin's Gavin Magnier and start an attack for his side during the Munster Junior Football 1/4 Final last weekend

Millstreet's Michael Vaughan looks to go around Naomh Eoin's Gavin Magnier and start an attack for his side during the Munster Junior Football 1/4 Final last weekend


It goes without saying that Millstreet will have their work cut out to move a step closer to Munster club junior football championship success when they square up to Kerry kingpins Brosna next Sunday.

Since the inception of the competition in 2003, a Cork team has managed to go all the way on just two occasions, with Carbery Rangers claiming the inaugural title and Canovee bringing the provincial crown to Leeside again four years later.

It has been the sole preserve of teams from the Kingdom otherwise, and the ease with which their standard-bearers Keel surmounted all the obstacles last year suggests that Kerry's dominance isn't going to be curtailed anytime soon.

There is an obvious imbalance from a Cork perspective in that the introduction of the premier intermediate football championship in 2006 meant the junior grade became a fourth tier championship in the county.

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As a consequence, Cork teams have effectively been punching above their weight when confronting Kerry opposition in the meantime, notwithstanding Canovee's achievement in 2007.

The Rebel county hasn't been represented in a Munster final since then, and perhaps the tame capitulation by Mitchelstown to Keel, 0-14 to 0-3, in a quarter-final game last year underlined the gulf in standards that has developed between Cork and Kerry teams at junior level over the past few seasons.

Millstreet won't need to be told the likelihood is they will facing more formidable opposition than any they have encountered so far this year when they throw down the gauntlet to Brosna, and their bid to buck the recent trend hasn't been enhanced by the fact that they will be conceding home advantage in the semi-final.

It's already been a richly rewarding year for Millstreet, of course, and after claiming the Duhallow title for the first time since 2003, and upsetting the odds against St Finbarr's to taste county championship glory and bridge a gap stretching back to 1963, they will probably feel that anything is possible at this stage.

For the reasons already outlined, they will have little or nothing to lose against Brosna and they would be entitled to draw a lot of encouragement from the display they served up in their previous outing.

While they would have been expected to prevail against Naomh Eoin of Clare in the quarter final, the manner in which they got the job done was very impressive, and they weren't in the least bit flattered by their 14-point winning margin.

Naomh Eoin threatened to make a fight of it for much of the first half, but Millstreet always looked capable of moving up a gear when the need arose and they eventually pounded the Banner side into submission, finishing 3-14 to 0-9 to the good, with all but 1-2 of their tally coming from play.

It was a performance that left little to be desired in terms of work-rate, cohesion and skill, and it was highlighted by the power-packed play from Mark Ellis and Patrick Coleman at midfield.

That resulted in a generous supply of ball to the attack where Michael Vaughan and Tadgh Collins - who, with Michael Murphy playing a deep-lying role at full forward to good effect, were afforded the space near goal to exhibit their talents to the full - inflicted the bulk of the damage.

Ellis, Coleman, Vaughan and Collins will obviously have key roles to play again on Sunday, but it remains to be seen if they can reach similar heights in what is bound to be a much more testing assignment against Brosna.

Should they do so, Millstreet will surely be in with a decent chance, although the unavailability of Cork senior Kevin Crowley through injury has to be viewed as a blow to their prospects, even if they did cope well defensively in his absence against Naomh Eoin.

Paul Sheehan slotted in smoothly at centre back the last day, while David McCaul justified his late call-up on the left wing, which showed that Millstreet aren't lacking quality on the bench, as was further illustrated by the eye-catching cameo from Cathal Crowley following his introduction in attack during the second half.

Kevin Crowley's loss is immeasurable at the same time, as his speedy and purposeful runs from the back have been a major weapon in Millstreet's armoury all year.

With eight straight wins in championship football under the belt, Millstreet will certainly enter the fray in a positive frame of mind, and they have shown more than once this year - not least in the county final when the came from six points behind in the last quarter to edge out the Barrs - that fitness and resilience are two of their main attributes.

So, if the issue is still in the balance coming down the home stretch on Sunday, who's to say they won't dig deeper than the opposition to get over the line once again.

One thing for sure, Willie O'Leary's men will be prepared to battle all the way to the finish, but, in light of what Kerry teams have achieved at this level in the past, not to mention the fact that Brosna will be operating on their home patch, it's easy to appreciate why Millstreet have been firmly cast in the role of the underdog for the fixture.