A pivotal weekend awaits in the Westmeath senior football championship as the final round robin group fixtures unfold.
With knockout phase progression and relegation issues to be determined, performances laden with commitment and guile will be of the essence as clubs strive to maintain a prominent presence in this year's shortened championship campaign.
On Saturday evening, the closing game in Group 1 takes place when Athlone play Caulry in Tang (throw in, 6.45pm ). Both teams suffered defeat to reigning Flanagan Cup holders,. Garrycastle, in their opening fixtures and will be striving to attain a victory which would ensure progression to a quarter final match against Rosemount.
Athlone, who enjoyed periods of dominance in their local derby four point loss to Garrycastle, will be seeking to a first victory in the senior football championship since 2018, while Caulry, the reigning Intermediate football champions, failed to compete over the duration of their opening round loss to the current senior football champions and will be eager to display their attributes on Saturday evening.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser on Tuesday, Athlone manager, Liam McHale, spoke of his championship progression aspirations in what is effectively a 'must win' game for both clubs this weekend.
"Reflecting upon the loss to Garrycastle, we played well for periods of the contest against the reigning champions, but at this level you have to have more consistency and composure to your play if you want to progress.
"I am glad that we had a three week break since our opening fixture as it allowed us to work on certain aspects of our performance against Garrycastle with which I was obviously not satisfied.
"Training has been extremely competitive and although some players have injuries with which to contend, we have a panel of footballers which I believe can help us achieve our goal on Saturday evening," Liam asserted.
The former All-Star Mayo centrefield player noted that Caulry will be well prepared and eager to perform despite their poor showing in their opening round robin fixture.
"From the outset Caulry would have targeted this game as an opportunity to gain a win and progress to the knockout phase and I would view the end scoreline in their game against Garrycastle as skewed. We are expecting a well contested championship fixture on Saturday in Tang and my charges have to be ready when the ball throws in," Liam emphasised.
Having contested a number of challenge fixtures in the intervening period, Liam noted that an air of "enthusiasm and energy" is very much prevalent amongst the playing panel as Athlone seek to remain in contention for the Flanagan Cup.
"You have to embrace the challenge and make the most from your club football playing days. You are representing your club and playing with friends. These are the memories that will linger and I hope we have a performance to remember on Saturday," Liam concluded.
Castledaly strive for championship progress
Meanwhile, Castledaly will be hoping to advance to the knockout phase of the senior football championship when they play The Downs in Milltown on Sunday afternoon (throw in, 3.30pm ).
Both teams suffered defeat to Group 2 winners, Rosemount, in their opening fixtures and will be eager to attain a positive result and ensure championship progression.
The winners of this championship contest will play Group 1 winners Garrycastle in a quarter final fixture.