Westmeath fall short in thrilling Christy Ring Cup final

Alan Mangan and St. Malachy's have a tough assignment against St. Loman's this weekend. Photo: John O'Brien.

Alan Mangan and St. Malachy's have a tough assignment against St. Loman's this weekend. Photo: John O'Brien.

Carlow 3-22

Westmeath 4-16 (AET )

In a game that made plenty of headlines before even a ball was pucked, Westmeath’s hurlers came agonisingly close to retaining their Christy Ring crown in Tullamore on Sunday last. Yet it was the sizable Carlow contingent who were celebrating when referee Noel Conroy brought the curtain down on a thrilling 90-plus minutes of action.

The quality of hurling on display was further confirmation that this game should, by right, have been played in Croke Park, though not at 7.30pm on a bank holiday Friday. Those at the coalface of promoting hurling in both Westmeath and Carlow, and I’m sure in all other counties competing in the Christy Ring competition, were rightly outraged at the original fixture decision. Westmeath Hurling Board chairman Billy Foley stated in the aftermath of the game that the bigger counties are dictating things. After the debacle over this fixture I don’t think many can disagree with him. The idea of power-sharing obviously hasn’t enveloped all aspects of the GAA yet. Until it does it is going to be difficult for so-called ‘weaker’ counties to break with tradition and take their place at the top table. As George Orwell might say ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’.

Westmeath deserve enormous credit for taking this game to extra time having trailed by 6 points going into time added on. Refusing to lie down, Westmeath got their just rewards when John Shaw and inspirational Brendan Murtagh (pen ) both got three pointers, taking the game to extra time.

Indeed Johnny Dooley’s men had much the better of the exchanges in the first period of extra time but did a Fermanagh on it hitting 7 wides in ten minutes as well as having a penalty saved. In the end this proved their undoing. In the second half of extra time Carlow took a three-point lead and despite the best efforts of the Lakelanders to hang on to their title, the men with the colourful jerseys held firm to record a memorable victory.

Defeat brings an end to what has been a long and reasonably good year for Westmeath hurling. To end the year in defeat is disappointing but it must be remembered that they were crowned Division 2 champions, not forgetting Clonkill’s historic all-Ireland win way back in February. Johnny Dooley’s one year term as manager is up and he was slow to speculate as to what the future holds. My guess is that he’ll be back at the helm for ’09.

Shay Murtagh Ltd Westmeath Senior Football Championship

There were just two games in the senior championship played over the bank holiday weekend with the remainder to be played over this weekend. Athlone recorded our first win of this year’s campaign with a two-point win over Castledaly. Despite Athlone having started much the brighter, it was Castledaly who led by a point at the break. We knew that defeat would have ended any hopes of us making the playoff stages and dug deep in the second half to secure our first points. Castledaly did have a chance of goal at the end with three points between the sides, but thankfully Niall O’Neill’s effort sailed over the bar. This result has thrown ‘the group of death’ wide open, though with tough games remaining against Mullingar Shamrocks and Garrycastle in Athlone we know we still face an uphill battle.

On bank holiday Sunday it was the clash of the two heavyweights as Tyrrellspass and Garrycastle went head to head in Cusack Park. On this occasion it was the reigning champions who, having lost to Castledaly, bounced back to winning ways on a scoreline of 1-9 to 1-8. Garrycastle had the chances to take something from this game but some wayward shooting let them down. Both sides will still have a big say in the destination of the Flanagan Cup this year.

This weekend’s action sees the clash of the saints as St.Lomans and St. Malachys square up in Rochfordbridge. Having seen St. Lomans in action in the league recently I expect them to collect both points here. Bunbrosna and Mullingar Shamrocks meet in Cusack Park at 6pm on Sunday and in what should be a tight affair I expect the men from Springfield to scrape through.

At 7.30pm also in Cusack Park the Downs should continue their winning run at the expense of Corralstown/Kinnegad. On Tuesday August 12 in Cusack Park at 7pm I have a feeling that Ballinagore might cause a surprise by turning over Killucan.

Roscommon Minors

Roscommon minors take on Ulster champions Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final this Saturday in Pearse Park Longford at 3.45pm. Having been somewhat unlucky in the Connacht final against Mayo the Rossies are well capable of reaching the next stage of the competition but they must take every scoring chance that comes their way. For Athlone Community duo of Niall Daly and Eoin Sheehy it’s a chance to avenge their defeat to St Pats Dungannon at the semi-final stage of the Hogan Cup. The relatively short journey to Pearse Park should mean a sizable Roscommon following and Gary Wynn’s men are sure to give a good account of themselves.


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