Progress to the quarter final stage of the Westmeath SFC achieved, Athlone manager, Liam McHale, has completed his initial task of progression from the group phase of this year’s shortened competition, as the club’s quest to regain the Flanagan Cup for the first occasion since 1998 continues.
Beneath grey laden skies in Tang on Saturday evening, Athlone earned the result which enabled progress, a draw with Caulry being sufficient.
For long periods in the second half of this closely fought contest such a realisation may not have come to fruition as Caulry, playing into a strong wind, opened a four point lead and were it not for the opportunistic play of Shane and Daniel Reid which resulted in the former scoring a crucial goal to afford Athlone in game impetus, the Mount Temple/Baylin club team may have secured the victory.
Athlone’s reward for their weekend championship endeavours is a quarter final fixture against Group Two winners, Rosemount, the clubs first championship meeting since 2015, when Athlone overcame a nine point half time deficit to beat their opposition in the semi-final of the Intermediate championship.
Athlone. who are without a senior football championship win since 2018, will be seeking to rectify this statistic when this enticing game throws in at Hogan Park, Moate, on Saturday evening (5pm ).
A mutual respect exists between the Athlone manager and his counterpart, Frankie Dolan, dating back to 2013 when both played pivotal roles in achieving All-Ireland club title success for South Roscommon club, St Brigids.
The pair still remain close with McHale speaking in glowing terms of Dolan’s managerial credentials as throw-in beckons on Saturday.
“Frankie and I have remained in contact since that All-Ireland achievement and it appears that his club management career is proving as fruitful as is playing days. I obviously wish him well but am hoping to halt his championship progress on Saturday,” Liam remarked.
Reflecting upon the weekend fixture against Caulry, Liam paid due credit to his charges as they reeled in a four point second half deficit to almost secure that eleusive first championship win.
“Despite Caulry’s heavy defeat in their opening game with Garrycastle, we knew that they would raise their level of play and as the second half progressed there was a fear that we may not get the result required to progress but once we scored the all important goal we gained momentum to enable the team achieve its target,” Liam asserted.
Trailing by the minimum at the interval having endured the unfavourable weather elements, Athlone appeared to be in prime position to place their authority on the game but Caulry gained swift second half advantage with Athlone staring at a championship exit.
“We failed to capitalise on two goalscoring opportunities in the first half which we should have converted, but the manner in which we retrieved the game will stand to the team as we face a wholly different challenge on Saturday.
“As underdogs we can approach the game in a looser frame of mind as the pressure will be on Rosemount as favourites. Such a mindset will not weigh upon the players and hopefully, as a result, they will be in a position to make the right decisions at the appropriate time as opposed to being hasty and rushed in their play.
“We are not an experienced team at this level and need to be at our utmost capabilities if we are to overcome the challenge posed by Rosemount. I am looking forward to the game, we are where we wanted to be at this stage of the competition and hopefully, we can achieve that first championship win in Moate on Saturday,” Liam concluded.