Pat Flanagan may have dominated the headlines last week after being appointed as interim Westmeath manager, but this week it’s a different Flanagan that will be on the minds of the football fraternity of Westmeath as the race for this year’s Flanagan Cup gets under way in earnest. Maryland and Kinnegad kicked off this year’s action in Moate last Sunday but the remaining five games are down for decision this weekend. The intermediate championship also kicks off this weekend.
As always the senior championship is made up of two groups of six, with the top team in each group securing a semi-final spot. The second team in each group plays the third team in the other group in a quarter final. The bottom team in each group play off for relegation.
While reigning champions Garrycastle will not be knocked off their perch too easily, there are five or six clubs, at least, with genuine aspirations of getting their hands on the Flanagan Cup this year. Last year’s beaten finalists St Loman’s will be determined to go one better this year. Castledaly who won their first ever title in 2008 are reported to be shaping up well at this early stage and will want to make amends for last year’s poor showing.
Tyrrellspass still possess plenty of talent and they are sure to be there or thereabouts when it comes to the business end. Athlone have more titles than any other club in the county (20 ), and after a lean decade, will be keen to put themselves back on the map as they celebrate their 125th birthday this year. Mullingar Shamrocks could prove great value at 4/1 to lift the cup if their recent demolition of Castledaly in the league is anything to go by. Reports of a number of key players heading Stateside for the summer will not help their cause though.
Maryland made the quarter final last year in their first year back in the senior ranks and judging by their opening round win over Kinnegad they will be a match for any team on their day. The Downs are capable of anything, including contesting a county final, though a big improvement on last year will be needed.
Kinnegad were disappointing in Moate last Sunday and on that performance it is hard to see them collecting silverware this year. Killucan, Tubberclare, and St Malachy’s will be seen as outsiders by most observers, even if they will have different ideas themselves.
Athlone v St Loman’s (Cusack Park, 7pm Saturday May 1 )
An interesting tussle in store here with both sides sure to want to get off to a winning start. St Loman’s came out on top when both sides met in last year’s championship, while Athlone had a few points to spare in this year’s league encounter. St Loman’s will have learned from last year’s county final defeat while Athlone will be hoping that this can be their year. St Loman’s will enter the game as slight favourites but it is sure to go right down to the wire.
Garrycastle v Tyrrellspass ( Cusack Park, 7pm Sunday May 2 )
Certainly the tie of the opening round, as the two dominant teams of recent years lock horns. Garrycastle would perhaps have preferred an easier opening game as they begin the defence of their title. All Ireland finalists Kilmurray/Illbrickane and Ballyhale Shamrocks both lost their opening round championship games last weekend, showing how hard it is to keep performing to a high level.
Tyrrellspass are likely to be without the services of Trevor John Genoud which would be a major blow. There will be much interest in how Denis Glennon performs ahead of his expected return to the county fold.
Garrycastle are not flying on all cylinders according to reports from recent challenge games but they do know what it takes to win championship matches. They look likely to scrape through.
Castledaly v The Downs ( Cusack Park, 5.30pm Sunday May 2 )
Both sides will be keen to make amends for last year’s poor showing in the championship. Castledaly, despite a recent hammering in the league at the hands of Shamrocks, are reported to be back on track after getting derailed last year. The Downs still have plenty of talent and experience at their disposal. Castledaly should just shade it even though a draw would be no surprise.
Mullingar Shamrocks v St Malachy’s (The Downs, 3pm Sunday May 2 )
It is difficult to see anything other than a Mullingar win in this game. Shamrocks have greater strength in depth and will be keen to get off to a winning start especially as a number of their players, including Kieran Gavin and Denis Coroon, are heading Stateside. Malachy’s will battle hard but it is likely to be in vain.
Tubberclare v Killucan (Moate, 3pm Sunday May 2 )
Tubberclare look set to mark their return to the senior ranks with a win. With a forward line that looks likely to include Fergal Wilson, Ian Coffey, Jeffrey Farrell, Francis Spollen, and Conor Elliot, Tubberclare will test any backline this year. If they can break even at midfield then they look certain to have too much firepower for Killucan.
This opening game of the 2010 Westmeath football championship failed to ever really spark to life. Maryland were full value for their five point winning margin against a disappointing Kinnegad outfit. Finbar Egan’s men raced into an early 1-3 to no score lead, the goal coming from a Kieran Martin fisted effort.
Indiscipline didn’t help Kinnegad’s cause and when full-back Joe Keeny received a straight red for an altercation with Callum McCormack after 18 minutes, Colm Coyle’s men faced an even steeper hill.
To their credit they did manage to reduce the deficit to four points but when Eamonn Flemming received his second yellow card any hopes of a dramatic comeback were ended.
David Kilmartin was sorely missed by the men in red who will be hoping for better performances from here on. Maryland face St Loman’s next and will fear nobody this year. With a player of the calibre of Callum McCormack up front why would they?