CORK man Michael Milner captained Kerry club Dr Croke’s hurlers to intermediate championship glory earlier this year.
It was a dream come through for the talented sports star to lead the Killarney club to county glory for its first time in 19 years, even though Milner was a reluctant captain initially.
“I actually turned down the captaincy at the start of the year, but I am glad, now, I later accepted.
“To be fair to the gaffer, he gave me some time and kept on my case. It was a great honour and privilege to captain a team that dedicated so much effort to ensure that the county hurling title was won for the first time since 2001,” he said.
Milner has had a successful GAA career in both Cork and Kerry, but Dr Croke’s success was his first time captaining a team to a championship victory.
“For me, personally, it was a huge achievement, as it was my first time captaining a team to glory, having played GAA since I first struck a ball, at U10 level, in West Cork,” Milner said.
“The team was steeped with leaders, which made my job easier. The players always listened to me on the many things I had to offer.
“I have the experience of playing senior football county finals in both Cork and Kerry and also of playing in Croke Park,” Milner said.
“A good head on wide shoulders definitely helps to ease the nerves of the younger lads involved.”
Dr Croke’s are more renowned for their ability in football, but they are equally comfortable with hurling, as Milner said.
“It was momentous for the Dr Croke’s club. We have been trying very hard to keep hurling going,” Milner said. “We were fortunate we got a lot of outside players involved over the last few years.
“This was my third county final with the hurlers and there was no way we were going to leave this one after us, after defeats in 2014 and 2015. The standard is good.
“It has taken us five years to be contenders for county glory again.”
Hurling continues to grow within the Killarney club. Milner credits Bishopstown native Eddie Murphy, who has been instrumental in promoting hurling within Dr Croke’s.
“Hurling is on the way up in Killarney,” Milner said. “This victory will attract more players and ensure that younger players will keep coming through. We had been training four times a week and our hurling just peaked at the right time.
“This was down to our hurling coach, Eddie Murphy. He is the best hurling coach I have ever worked with.
“He worked tirelessly to get us ready for the final. Without him, we wouldn’t be champions. The man lives, eats, and breathes hurling. His passion for the game is infectious.
“He changed the panel’s mentality towards training and winning. We owe Eddie Murphy a lot.
“Credit also has to go the manager, John Lenihan, who hails from Newtownshandrum, for bringing him in. John also worked through good and bad times to keep the hurling going in Dr Croke’s. Without him, I think we would not be county champions.”
There is a strong Cork influence within the hurling side of Dr Croke’s GAA Club. Carraig na bhFear club man Jamie Lenihan suggested that Milner operate as a number six this season.
Milner loved his new role as he helped inspire Dr Croke’s to county final glory against Tralee Parnells.
“Jamie found a new role for me this year, having played midfield, centre-forward, and full-forward over the last few years for the hurlers,” Milner said. “Centre-back suited me. I loved the role of sweeping and supplying passes into the forwards.
“It was great to win a county title in Austin Stack Park, a venue that many legends and heroes have played in down through the years. Hurling is stronger in the north of the county, but this victory for us shows that the south is on the rise.”
This was the first year in 17 that the former Cork underage football player didn’t play senior football. He previously starred for Dohneys before the move to Dr Crokes, having also lined out for Carbery when he was with Randal Óg.
Milner, lined out in Cork senior football finals for both Carbery, 2004, and the Dohenys, 2006, and initially moved to Killarney through his job as a garda. He has won county and All-Ireland titles with the prestigious Dr Croke’s.
“I am currently in college, completing a masters in criminal justice in the UK and I am also doing the green cert in Dararra Agricultural College. “Between college and my schedule in work in Tralee as a detective garda, it just didn’t allow enough time to commit to the footballers this year,” Milner said.
“It was a very tough decision, at the time, to leave the Dohenys. It has paid off very well, however.
“I have now won county senior football titles in both Cork and Kerry. I won a senior county title with Carbery in 2004, when we beat Bishopstown. I won senior county titles with Dr Croke’s, in both 2017 and 2018.
“Those memories are very special. I was also very fortunate to win a junior A hurling West Cork championship title with the Dohenys. The Dohenys are a great club and I have great friends in Dunmanway.”