An opportunity to grace the Westmeath Senior Football Championship final for the first occasion since 2003 awaits Athlone as they strive for semi-final supremacy over opponents, Tyrrellspass, in TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar, on Sunday afternoon (throw in, 2pm ).
A repeat of the final four fixture in 2016 when a late Tyrrellspass goal ended Athlone’s aspirations for Flanagan Cup success upon their promotion from the Intermediate football grade, the most successful club in the county will be seeking a result reversal and a place in this year’s showpiece occasion.
Having advanced to the knockout phase of this year’s competition courtesy of superior scoring difference, Athlone upped their level of performance in the quarter final defeating a strong Rosemount team by four points to seal Sunday’s date with Tyrrellspass.
A cohesive team performance the dominant feature from the success over Rosemount, Athlone will hope that a performance of similar standard will be sufficient for advancement to a county final and perchance a repeat pairing of the ultimate fixture in 2003 when The Downs provided the opposition on that day.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Athlone manager, Liam McHale, reflected upon a positive quarter final fixture showing and afforded his thoughts prior to throw in on Sunday afternoon.
“Reflecting on our performance against Rosemount, I would be most pleased with many aspects of our play, but as always, you view the contest as a whole and there is much upon which we need to work if we are to defeat Tyrrellspass on Sunday.
“There is an understanding beginning to grow amongst the players and they now that have to continue to push themselves if we are to achieve our goal and reach the county final,” Liam remarked.
Athlone created seven goal chances during their success over Rosemount and although all were not taken, that ability to generate opportunities is cause for optimism should Sunday’s semi-final be finely poised come the game’s final stages.
“We created numerous goal chances against Rosemount, we took two when it mattered most, but players have to avail of the scoring opportunities which arise. Our communication must be better in this regard to ensure the player best placed receives the pass to avail of the scoring chance,” Liam added.
Tyrrellspass boast a number of experienced players within their ranks, most notably Ger Egan and the Glennon brothers, Denis and David and their presence will provide a strong challenge for a young Athlone team.
“Tyrrellspass, while operating with a solid defensive structure in their championship games to date, have that ability to break and place their experienced players in key scoring positions and it will take complete focus from the team to contain their scoring forwards over the duration of the contest.
“We will have to remain patient, maintain our discipline and hopefully, our accuracy in play is on point to ensure victory,” Liam emphasised.
The young cohort of players have flourished within the senior championship setting and their level of play was matched in the quarter final by strong showings from county players, Ray Connellan and Noel Mulligan.
“We have introduced a number of young players to the team this championship. They have flourished and adapted quickly to their competitive surroundings and when they view the committed displays of Ray and Noel it gives cause for a further enhancement of their game.
“Sunday is now a further opportunity for the team to have a positive impact on the championship and hopefully, the result will be one for which we are all aspiring,” Liam concluded.