The rise and rise of Milford GAA club to finally make it to Division One last weekend is one of the fairytales of the GAA in Donegal.
Milford defeated Glenfin and in so doing, clinched promotion to the top flight with a couple of games to spare.
A mere 33 years in existence, after Downings and then Fanad Gaels broke away from the old Mulroy Gaels, Milford will step out with the big boys next season in Towney, Magheragallon, O’Donnell Park. (However, there was a Milford club playing senior football back in the 1930s, according to the records of Fr. Seán).
And according to one former player and present administrator, the present success was built at U-14, U-15 and U-16 by current county minor manager, Shaun Paul Barrett, or SP as he is known throughout the Donegal GAA world.
Aidan Cannon is proud of the current team’s rise and, at the same time, a little sad that he didn’t get the chance to play on the big stage.
“It is a great achievement and it has been built by SP. In the last few years, we were defensive; ‘no goals’ was our motto. This year, because SP had moved on to take the county minors, Danny O’Donnell has come in and while we retained our defensive side, we became more attack minded,” said Aidan, who adds that Gary Merritt, Johnny Logue and Cathal McGettigan must surely get a chance to show their wares on the county stage.
“Getting promotion put our players in the window. When you’re in Division Three, no one will see you. But they will have to come and look now when we play in Towney or Dungloe.
“I played A level at U-21 but never got the opportunity to play at senior A level,” said Cannon, who was a county minor in 1992 and ‘93 and a member of the Ted Webb winning U-16 side of 1991.
“I’m really happy that the likes of Pauric Curley and Paddy Peoples will get the chance to play at this level.
“At the start of the year, the league was our target and the points target was 16. But after we went to Donegal Town and defeated Four Masters, we felt we were good enough,” said Cannon, who also pointed to wins in the Gaeltacht over Termon and beating Gaoth Dobhair in Magheragallon.
“Our manager, Danny O’Donnell, (a Naomh Muire man) said it was the first win he ever had in Magheragallon.”
Four years ago they were in Division Four, but under the stewardship of SP Barrett, they rose to Division Two, and now they have made the final step.
Up to this year, they had only a small number of big days, winning the Junior Championship in 1990 and playing in the Senior Championship in 1993 when they took Glenfin to four games (the aforementioned Aidan Cannon notching 0-6 in one game and 0-8 in another).
Ironically, it was Glenfin they met on Saturday night last and this time they got through in Pairc Taobhoige to reach the promised land.
Sharing their facilities with Milford United and Milford AC, it is an unusual situation, but there is a great working relationship. “We have only one ESB bill; one bill for verti draining, etc.,” says Aidan Cannon, who said there is nothing sweeter than winning for your own parish.
Milford’s attention will turn now to the Intermediate Championship which resumes on Saturday evening against neighbours, Fanad Gaels, but one feels that they will have one eye already on big games next year.
“We have a lot of work to do to compete at that level, but we have Paul Fisher, who was working with the Donegal senior team, helping out with strength and conditioning and he will have them ready for the big time,” says Cannon.