The gloves are off and most of the championship clichés folded away as Milford and Burt collide in this year’s Intermediate Championship final.
Milford are coming to the close of a tremendous season, while some of the long and lean dual stars of Burt will be hoping to make up for that hurling final defeat to Sean MacCumhaill’s.
Milford overcame Aodh Ruadh in their semi-final while Burt edged out a youthful and talented Naomh Columba in their semi-final to set up a first ever Intermediate final appearance.
For Burt mentor, Sean Murphy these are very special days to be savored as his team is a classic mix of experience and youth.
Add in the fact that in Mickey McCann, Ciaran Dowds, the McDermotts, Joe Boyle and Conor Harkin, he has some hardy hurlers who know all about winning county titles.
“It is a great occasion in Burt and our defeat in the hurling final is a blessing in disguise as a lot of boys are hurting from losing.
“That gives us a bit of motivation and especially at underage level to bring the younger boys on.
“Most of the panel are hurlers and sometimes it was difficult but you just have to work together.
“Our hurlers give us an extra dimension because the are used to winning county finals and have also played in Ulster finals.
“But we have Mark Coyle, Sean McHugh and Conor Harkin who have all played county football”.
Burt had a very good U-21 team that ran Aodh Ruadh very close in the championship a few years ago and “that is the bulk of this team coming through”.
“That is great to see”.
Burt had a long campaign, but the seeds of success were sown in a meeting between Sean, Damian Dowds and Ronan McLaughlin last Christmas.
“We had a chat and said that we were going to pinpoint the championship and the League could look after itself.
“We knew we could be a bit short in the League”.
Burt drew with Naomh Brid, beat neighbours Buncrana, Cloughaneely (who played in a higher league), as did semi-finalists Naomh Columba, to set up this historic date with Milford.
“We have had a few tight matches so far with only a point or so to spare which shows the great character of this side.
“A few years ago, maybe the heads would drop a little but that has not happened this year and now we are in the final”.
On Sunday they are more than happy to go in as underdogs against an impressive Milford side.
“We played Milford last year down in Burt when they were in Division 3 and we won but you could read nothing into that.
“But now they are a Division One side and we are in Division Three but if we bring our best game then we will be in the mix”.
Meanwhile Milford’s ice cool manager Danny O’Donnell said the club’s main target this year was survival in Division Two.
“As any new team coming into a higher division we were no different but we were also able to target the championship because the way the League is structured.”
But, Danny’s boys have surpassed all expectations and are now promoted to Division One, a remarkable achievement for an area that was mainly known for fine soccer teams for many generations.
Milford did win an Intermediate Championship back in 1992, but the intervening years have been relatively barren, until this truly momentous season.
“The big carrot for the lads this Sunday is to try and win this cup if we want to be playing senior championship football next season as well as senior league football.
“That is the real incentive for us”.
Milford were minus team captain Paddy Peoples and PJ Hagan in their victory over Aodh Ruadh in the semi-final, where their ability to take their goal chances proved crucial.
“Their absence was a big blow and there was some uncertainty as to whether we would have David Curley and Barry McNulty as they were also in the bridal party.
“But thankfully the two lads were able to stay back, all four are still out in Malta and we won’t get them back until Thursday (tonight)”.
Danny is well aware of the great soccer tradition in Milford but says it is “more of a great sporting tradition”.
“It is not just Gaelic or soccer, but athletics is very strong down there and it is full of sports people and we have worked with the soccer people as best we can, sharing the players and the pitches are beside each other down there”.
But the majority of the squad does not play any soccer.
“So we are talking about five or six players who combine both, but they are key players, but anybody who can play Gaelic and soccer is going to a be a good player”.
Milford had a tough group to get out of beating Carndonagh, neighbours Fanad Gaels, St Naul’s; Naomh Brid in the quarter-final and a big battle with Aodh Ruadh as they put Milford out at the quarter-final stages last year.
“It was tight but I thought we came through it pretty well and were slightly the better team”.
On Sunday they face a Burt side buoyed by history, that Danny says will be a “massive incentive for them”.
“They will look at it as underdogs, and we have to cope with all of that and we have to cope with making sure we get a good performance out of the lads.
“Being in a higher division counts for nothing as I was lucky enough to win two Intermediate Championships with my own Naomh Muire from Division Three.
“In Division Two and Division Three it is pretty much a level playing field when it come to the Championship”.
Maybe so, but it looks like a Milford victory on Sunday.