Michael Ryan stepped down as Westmeath manager following Saturday's 2-21 to 0-16 All Ireland SHC Preliminary Quarter-Final defeat against Wexford at TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar.
Westmeath produced another committed and courageous performance, but Wexford closed out the game with the minimum of fuss to set up an attractive quarter final against Clare next weekend. David Dunne's opening period goal ensured Wexford led at the break by 1-12 to 0-8.
After the restart, Conor McDonald added a second major for Davy Fitzgerald's charges, who were able to adequately deal with Westmeath's efforts. Allan Devine was sharp contributing eight points, while Aonghus Clarke and Eoin Price battled throughout for a typically spirited Westmeath. Following the defeat Ryan revealed his decision to leave the Westmeath position.
“I am really proud of all the players,” Ryan remarked. “It’s been some journey. My journey is at an end now, but we’ve had some fantastic days and hopefully the team can go from strength to strength as there’s a good base there now. It is a sad day. This is trip number 501 to Mullingar but I enjoyed every bit of it. There’s not just the players — Michael Walsh has been incredible, our two kit men, Martina and all the backroom team, our medical staff. I am so proud of everyone and so delighted," Ryan highlighted.
Ryan believes that there is significant potential in Westmeath to make further strides in the coming years. “I’ve made a lot of good friends here. I’d like to think I will come up here and watch a county final and watch Westmeath a lot in the future, no longer the manager but as a fan from now on.” They’re a fantastic bunch of human beings who are so proud to play for Westmeath. Every day they’ve gone out they’ve given 100%. They’ve always fought an honest fight and put Westmeath hurling first. I am just delighted and proud to have been associated with them," the Waterford native enthused.
Roscommon seal Super 8 spot
A stirring 2-22 to 1-19 win over Armagh means Roscommon are now preparing for an All Ireland quarter final group phase encounter against Tyrone at Croke Park on Saturday with throw-in 5pm.
It is an action packed stint for Kevin McStay's team, who delivered in true style to beat Armagh in a round four qualifiers thriller at O'Moore Park. A match packed with drama and excitement was ultimately decided by Enda Smith's excellence as Roscommon prevailed. Smith struck 2-1 for Roscommon, who were seriously tested by a hard working Armagh outfit.
Andrew Murnin caused Roscommon plenty of problems early on as Armagh edged 0-9 to 0-6 in front by the 22nd minute. Roscommon responded impressively with a Smith goal and some excellent forward play from Cathal Cregg, Ciarain Murtagh and Diarmuid Murtagh guiding the Connacht team 1-11 to 0-12 ahead at the interval.
After the restart the match continued to provide real excitement as Roscommon custodian Colm Lavin saved a Rory Grugan penalty in the 44th minute. Armagh, though, with Mark Shields effective in a full forward role during the third quarter replied following a flurry of Roscommon points. Shields thumped a great goal and Armagh had the gap cut to two, but Roscommon regained their composure. In the closing stages Smith added a second goal to seal Roscommon's passage into a pool with Tyrone, Donegal, and Dublin.
“Fantastic," McStay beamed following the game. "You could hear the noise coming out of the dressing room. It is a different country when you are winning these games. We’ve known the dejection of the Connacht final so this is one of the good days. More importantly we have the three quarter finals now to develop this group. This is a coming-of-age for the group because that was always going to be put up to us by a Kieran McGeeney Armagh team who contributed massively to the contest. We wobbled and it looked like it was gone and we came back great."
McStay is optimistic about the future, because Roscommon are a team with significant potential. The Armagh victory was a noteworthy achievement to secure a place in the last eight of the All Ireland Senior Football Championship for the second year in a row.
“It’s huge because all I wanted to find out was whether this mattered. I think it matters to all of us in the backroom team. I did put the pressure on the players and on ourselves because if I was in Kieran’s dressing room now, I would be asking, 'where are we going with this?' Why, on the very big days, does Roscommon always take a step back? We want to be in there amongst the Mayos and the Galways and whoever else, so this was a big day. I put it up to them all week and I know I did. If that pressurises us, then that’s life. It’s a high-level game and we’re into the last eight in the country," McStay emphasised.
Now Roscommon want to demonstrate their ability on the national stage and the coming month should be extremely interesting.