All to play for in final round of group games in Westmeath SFC
Doran Harte is tackled from behind during Garryclastle’s win over Killucan last weekend. Photo: johnobrienimages.com
The fifth, and final, round of group games in the senior football championship are down for decision this weekend. The outcome of each of the six scheduled games will be eagerly awaited as some clubs bid to secure a direct passage to the semi-final, others to gain a place in the knockout stages and yet others battle to avoid a dreaded relegation dogfight.
In last weekend’s games the biggest upset, if you could call it that, was Maryland’s win over Mullingar Shamrocks which leaves the Drumraney men on maximum points after four rounds.
Elsewhere Garrycastle had a facile 3-13 to 0-8 win over Killucan who now find themselves in relegation trouble regardless of this weekend’s game against Tyrrellspass. Castledaly had an equally impressive win over Bunbrosna while Coralstown/Kinnegad had a goal to spare over Tyrrellspass.
St Loman’s showed no mercy as they cruised to a 19-point win over The Downs while Athlone were made to work hard for their three point win over St Malachy’s.
The action kicks off on Saturday evening with two games throwing in at 7pm. Garrycastle will be expected to see off the challenge of Bunbrosna when the sides meet in Moate. A win for the reigning champions would see them safely through to the last four. Bunbrosna’s win over Killlucan has kept them clear of relegation trouble and they along with Killucan have only pride to play for this weekend.
At the same time in Cusack Park two in-form teams, Maryland and St Loman’s, go head to head with the winner topping the group and more importantly securing a direct route to the semi-final. Maryland are the only team with a full complement of points thus far. I have a feeling that St Loman’s will dominate the midfield exchanges however and this could be the difference between the sides. While Maryland have adopted a very defensive style which is difficult to counter, a greater supply to the Saints forward should see them edge an interesting tie.
The remaining four games are down for decision on Sunday. In division A the meeting of Castledaly and Coralstown/Kinnegad in Cusack Park at 5.30pm is undoubtedly the tie of the round. Both sides have been impressive in their outings thus far and this is a straight battle for third place in the group and the final knockout place. Presuming Garrycastle and Tyrrellspass both win they will finish first and second in the group and a Castledaly win would see them join Jack Cooney’s men on six points but advance to the knock-out stages on the head-to-head rule. Traditionally there is never much between these two sides and while a draw is a distinct possibility I have a feeling Derek Heavin’s side will have enough firepower to edge it and book their place in the quarter-finals.
Tyrrellspass should have little difficulty in seeing off the challenge of Killucan who have struggled to find form this year and are already destined for a relegation play-off.
In division B there are two fascinating ties down for decision on Sunday. At 5.30pm St Malachy’s take on The Downs in Rochfortbridge with the loser condemned to a relegation play-off against Killucan. Neither side, though especially The Downs, would fancy that and this has all the ingredients of a real dogfight. The Downs will be without the services of John Smith who is suspended and that certainly won’t help their cause. St Malachy’s too are struggling to get their best footballers on the field. A hesitant nod is given to The Downs to scrape through but it won’t be pretty.
The final game in division B sees Athlone and Mullingar Shamrocks battle it out for a place in the quarter-finals. A draw would suffice for Tom Coffey’s men while Shamrocks must secure both points. From our point of view we have certainly made progress since last year when we ended up in relegation trouble. While we have lost seven or eight key players since this time last year we have also blooded a few younger players who are developing well into senior footballers. Shamrocks too have had their problems with Kieran Gavin and Darragh Daly on the injured list and Lorcan Smith red-carded last weekend.
Neither side has set the world alight so far and we know we will need to improve if we are to book a quarter-final spot. The pressure and expectation will all be on the Mullingar men to get a result, considering how close they came to winning the county title last year, but we will be going up to have a right cut at it and see where that takes us.
There is also a full round of games in the junior and intermediate championships. With such a hectic weekend’s action in store there are bound to be a few upsets and plenty of talking points. May the best teams win.