Munster Club JFC quarter-final
Naomh Eoin [Clare]
Sunday, November 9
Mallow GAA Complex, 2pm
It can be safely said that it makes a big difference to Millstreet to be heading into their opening assignment against Clare kingpins Naomh Eoin as county champions, and they will be in a very positive frame of mind on that account.
For all that, they will hardly be fancied to go all the way in a championship that has been dominated by Kerry teams since 2008. Indeed, the only teams from outside the Kingdom to lift the title since the competition was officially inaugurated eleven years ago are Cork standard-bearers Carbery Rangers and Canovee in 2003 and 2007 respectively.
It will be a case of taking it one step at a time for Millstreet, who, in view of Clare's poor record over the years, are entitled to believe they are in with a decent chance of advancing at the expense of the Banner's current representatives from the Loop Head peninsula.
Selector Thomas O'Leary admits it has already been an unbelievable year for Millstreet, but he says the suggestion that they are now in bonus territory doesn't sit well with him.
"That's a phrase being tossed around a lot and it implies we are going to adopt something of a laid-back approach to the Munster club championship. Nothing could be further from the truth, because our attitude is exactly the same as it was after we won the championship in Duhallow.
"We were very conscious then that we would be representing our division in the county championship and we are equally conscious now we are representing Cork, so we are certainly not going to treat it lightly.
"An opportunity like this doesn't come around too often and we believe we are capable of competing well in Munster, because the way we look at it is that you can't be such a bad side when you win the Cork county championship."
O'Leary revealed that Millstreet have no serious injury worries ahead of the showdown with Naomh Eoin and he contends that the depth of the panel has been a key factor in what has been achieved so far this year.
"In the county final, the subs we brought in made a fierce impact and I think fellas accept at this stage that the days of using just fifteen players in a match are gone.
"We know we have a good strong squad, we know our fitness levels are also very good and we know that those are the main reasons why it has been such a successful year for us.
"We have no idea what to expect from Naomh Eoin, but we will certainly have our own house in order for Sunday, and playing in Mallow should be an advantage, particularly from the support point of view, which was phenomenal for the county final in Pairc Uí Rinn," said O'Leary.
Given that they hadn't won a divisional title since 2003, Millstreet's elation knew no bounds after they bridged the gap when accounting for Knocknagree in the Duhallow junior football final in late August
They would have been ranked among the leading contenders at the start of the season, as they had filled the runners-up slot behind eventual county champions Rockchapel in 2012, and were ousted by Cullen in a semi-final replay, which went to extra time, last year.
Still, the road ahead was laden with pitfalls, and it must have been a source of immense relief to Millstreet that they were able to survive a string of stern tests from Cullen, Dromtarriffe, Lyre and Knocknagree in turn to reach the summit.
No matter what happened after that, 2014 was always going to be regarded as a memorable year for the club, but it has yielded a harvest that has possibly surpassed their expectations in the meantime
Two weeks ago, they extended their winning run to seven games when - having earlier accounted for East-Cork kingpins Glenbower Rovers and Muskerry champions Kilmurry, who were narrowly defeated by Rockchapel in the 2012 county final - they upset the odds against St Finbarr's to claim their first county title since 1963.
It was a remarkable victory, as Millstreet were forced to play second fiddle for much of the match, and were somewhat flattered to be just six points adrift at the three quarter stage.
Following the boost of a goal by substitute Cathal Crowley, however, they became a transformed side on the run-in, eventually coming through by 1-9 to 1-8. It wasn't the first time this year that Millstreet had produced a strong finish, and it confirmed they are a team with tremendous character and self-belief.
They might not be the most talented outfit ever to have lifted a county junior title, but, with the likes of Michael Vaughan, Mark Ellis and Cork senior panelist Kevin Crowley on board, there is still a rich vein of quality running through the side.
Vaughan is a top class attacker, Ellis is an imposing midfielder, while Crowley is a centre-back that not only defends well, but can be relied upon to push forward with immense pace and purpose whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Had Millstreet lost the county final, they would still have gone forward to represent Cork in the Munster club championship, as the Barrs weren't eligible to compete for the reason that it's the city club's second team.