Former Doheny footballer keen to play his part in Dr Crokes’ bid for All-Ireland senior club honours
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
WHEN Dr Crokes won the Killarney team’s first and only All-Ireland club senior football championship in 1992, Mike Milner was five years old and learning to kick a ball in his local GAA pitch in Ballinacarriga.
But this Friday evening the West Cork GAA export will pull out all the stops to help the Kerry champions reach the Promised Land for a second time when they take on Slaughtneil (Derry) in the All-Ireland decider in Croke Park (5pm throw-in).
The former Doheny clubman transferred to Dr Crokes ahead of the 2014 season, and having lived and worked in Killarney for the past seven years – he is also married to a local Rathmore woman Mags Kelleher and they have a son, Ryan – Milner is willing to do whatever it takes to help Crokes on Friday.
Milner came on as a second-half sub against Kilmurry-Ibrickane and Loughmore-Castleiney in the Crokes’ successful Munster series and he was used as a sub in the recent All-Ireland semi-final win against Corofin, replacing Colm Cooper down the final stretch.
The Killarney Garda is ready if needed again on Friday.
‘In club football there is no higher accolade or grade than this,’ the 30-year-old explained.
‘Starting off I played junior B football and I never thought that I’d be playing at the highest level and in with a chance of winning it.
‘It’s a dream come true to be involved in an All-Ireland club final.
‘I played in Croke Park once before, in 2003 in an All-Ireland minor semi-final against Dublin, a game we lost. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to play there again. I had always hoped that I’d get another run with Cork but that didn’t happen, so to get another chance at 30 years of age is fantastic.
‘I want to make the most of it and hopefully be involved at some stage.’
Milner wasn’t involved when Dr Crokes came up short in the 2007 All-Ireland final against Crossmaglen Rangers, losing after a replay, and ever since then the club has targeted the All-Ireland title.
Milner feels they’re ready to deliver.
‘We’re keeping our feet on the ground because we know what lies ahead on Friday,’ he said.
‘To be honest, I have never seen a set-up as good as the Crokes have, it’s so professional.
‘A lot of the panel that were involved ten years ago are still involved, a lot of them were 18, 19 back then; the full back in 2007 was Smiler (Mike Moloney), he was only 19, and he’s still our full back now. Gooch, Luke Quinn, Shane Doolan, Jamie Doolan, John Payne, Ambrose O’Donovan, they were all young fellas back then and they’re still here now.
‘A lot of the older brigade from that campaign form the backbone of the team now so we have experience to go with the young fellas coming up.’
Milner – who won a Cork SFC title with Carbery in 2004 – has added a lot of silverware to his own collection since linking up with Dr Crokes, and now the former Cork underage footballer is one win away from the biggest win of his career. But Ulster champs Slaughtneil stand in his way.
‘Slaughtneil beat Austin Stacks three years ago and Stacks beat us that year as well so we know they’re good,’ he said.
‘We know they’re capable of beating Kerry opposition, they’re going to be your typical northern team and they’ll play hard and tough, but we are coming prepared from every angle.
‘I’ve seen fellas stepping up to a different level over the last few weeks. Gooch, Johnny Buckley, Daithi Casey, they’ve stood up the last few weeks and they’re driving this on. We’re ready.’