Westmeath move forward for chance to win McDonagh cup

Westmeath manager Michael Ryan's charges secured their passage to the Joe McDonagh decider after victory against Antrim last Saturday. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile.

Westmeath manager Michael Ryan's charges secured their passage to the Joe McDonagh decider after victory against Antrim last Saturday. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile.

Westmeath claimed a place in next month's Joe McDonagh Cup final by beating Antrim 2-19 to 1-20 at TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar, last Saturday.

Michael Ryan's charges have one remaining group game against Carlow this weekend, but the midlanders were delighted to secure their passage to the Croke Park decider.

It is a significant achievement for Ryan's outfit and the manager hailed Westmeath's character. Following Ciaran Doyle and Niall O'Brien goals, Westmeath led by eight points at the break before Antrim hit 1-6 without reply to hit the front. Late on Westmeath responded finishing strongly which pleased Ryan.

"It was a funny type of a game," Ryan reflected. "In the first half I thought we played as well as we ever have. We played some absolutely super hurling.

"We were eight points up at half-time, we spoke about it in the dressing room, we realised at some stage in the second half that they would have a purple patch," said Mr Ryan.

"We kept the game plan going, we kept using the ball, and we got some great points from play, and Alan Devine nailed a couple of long range frees. That is what it is about."

Ryan was thrilled by the composure Westmeath showed under real pressure in the closing stages.

Ryan was convinced that Westmeath would get the job done on home turf against a talented Antrim side even though Saffrons talisman Neil McManus, who had been immense, missed a free in the dying moments.

"To be honest about it, I don't know why, but I never thought we were going to lose the game," Ryan said.

"I felt when he was standing over the ball that it was a very difficult free. It would be a different scenario if he was level or a point up, but when you are a point down those goalposts, at times, seem very, very narrow.

"I was hopeful he'd drive it wide, thankfully it tailed to the left, we went down the field to clinch the game. It is all about playing for the full whack and I thought we finished the game very strongly."

While Westmeath are expected to make changes for the Carlow encounter Ryan is still hopeful about securing another win in the competition.

"I think out of respect to every team in it everybody deserves a fair crack of the whip," Ryan commented.

"We weren't happy with our League Final performance against Carlow, it was very disappointing. We will be going down there trying to keep the winning thing going because as far as we are concerned winning is a damn good habit."

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