The mindset of club and inter-county gaelic footballers within the county will have been energised following the unveiling, by the GAA, of its ‘Safe to Return to Gaelic Games’ document.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Westmeath senior football captain and Maryland clubman, Kieran Martin, welcomed the announcement, as footballers strive for a return to competitive action.
Due to injury, the Westmeath captain had yet to feature for the Lake County during the National Football League Division 2 campaign but was hopeful of substitution impact in the crucial contest with Laois when the pandemic restrictions were enforced.
“I had trained fully with the squad on the Thursday night prior to the game and was looking forward to being involved on the playing field once again but the restrictions were swiftly enforced leading to the game’s postponement,” Kieran reflected.
With the belief that such restrictions would only be in place for an interim period, the squad continued their training preparations online courtesy of relevant programmes issued by team management.
“We all had individual and collective training programmes to follow but as the pandemic situation worsened it was clear that a return to playing action would not be imminent. When there is no concrete date for a return, maintaining motivation while training can prove problematic, but thankfully, the situation has improved and we have a document outlining the remainder of the season for us,” Kieran acknowledged.
In a role reversal, competitive club fare will throw in on July 31 with GAA grounds due to reopen on June 29 to facilitate training in small groups.
“I am thoroughly looking forward to what will be a novel club and intercounty championship scene this year. In usual circumstances you would return to playing club championship after an arduous inter-county season and energy levels may not be what you would hope, but now, with motivation to the fore, my commitment to the Maryland cause will be at a maximum,” Kieran asserted.
The Westmeath County Board has yet to decide upon a fixture roadmap for this year’s football and hurling club championships but there is a short timeframe allowable for playing activity with competitions in both codes due to culminate on October 11.
Pertaining to matters inter-county, training will recommence on September 14, allowing a squad ethos to generate prior to the start of the 2020 senior football championship in mid-October.
“I’m truly looking forward to a return to the Westmeath fold. The camaraderie amongst the squad is strong and what you miss most in the absence of group training sessions.
“All involved with the squad this season have immense pride in wearing the Westmeath colours and always give their utmost for the playing cause and this is certain to be the cause when we return to competitive action,” Kieran noted.
Similar to the club championship scene, a short period of time has been afforded by the GAA towards the completion of both the football and hurling inter-county championships with the Westmeath captain of the opinion that a one-off open draw knockout competition may prevail.
“While we exited the Leinster championship in the opening round last year, we gained confidence from our victories in the All-Ireland qualifiers and were unlucky to lose out by the minimum to Clare.
“Should a knockout competition be the preferred choice for the GAA this year and the open draw prove favourable, there is no reason why progress cannot be made if initial round success is achieved,” Kieran enthused.