A return to Westmeath senior football championship playing fare is imminent as eight time victors, Garrycastle, strive to retain the Flanagan Cup, having last achieved successive title wins in 2010 and 2011.
Following the revised draw which took place on Sunday last, the holders face local rivals, Athlone, in the opening round robin Group 1 contest, an enticing prospect and a fixture which will garner much interest as the championship throws in.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, John Keane, who co-manages Garrycastle with former intercounty playing colleague, Gary Dolan, noted his anticipation prior to the start of a condensed senior football championship.
“Obviously, we are looking forward to the start of this year’s championship when it appeared unlikely some weeks ago that such an occurrence would not materialise.
“A condensed championship with our opening encounter pitting us against town rivals, Athlone, in what should be a highly competitive fixture. Athlone have made a prominent managerial appointment in Liam McHale this year and his presence will have a positive impact following their fractured campaign in 2019.
“We will be preparing for that opening contest over the coming weeks and we cannot look further than this local derby game at this particular time,” John stated.
Caulry will also provide round robin opposition as Group 1 progresses with Keane stressing that the Mount Temple/Baylin club will provide stern opposition.
“Caulry will provide a stern test of that I have no doubt. Personally speaking, they were a senior team operating at intermediate level last year and deserve to be back in the top tier of championship football. It will be a fiercely competitive group from which to advance.
“We are under no illusions with regard to the playing task which is now presented and if we are to progress to the knockout phase of this year’s championship we must be fully focused and committed for the duration of both games,” John emphasised.
Having returned to training in line with public health protocol, a different dynamic is now in existence following the easing of restrictions.
“As management, we have to keep the health and safety of our players firmly in mind at all times and hopefully, as the respective championships progress, all club representatives remain safe. That is vitally important.
“It feels great to be back within an on pitch training environment. We shall prepare accordingly in the coming month, but our focus is solely on our opening round robin phase fixture with Athlone,” John concluded.