The wait for a return to the showpiece fixture of Westmeath club football continues for Athlone following a narrow defeat to Tyrrellspass in the semi-final of this year’s prized competition in TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar, on Sunday afternoon.
Played in eerily quiet surrounds on a pristine surface conducive to fast flowing football, Athlone, who were seeking a place in the ultimate fixture of the Westmeath SFC for the first time since 2003, made a wholly positive start, attaining a five point lead at the end of the first quarter.
However, despite playing with the aid of a strong breeze, Liam McHale’s charges concluded the first half with a mere two point advantage (0-7 - 0-5 ), the place kicking abilities of county player, Ger Egan, reducing the scoreboard arrears for Tyrrellspass.
The second half proved problematic for Athlone and with both Daniel Reid and Ray Connellan failing to avail of goalscoring opportunities, the experienced playing nous of the Glennon brothers, David and Denis, and the continuous forward probing prowess of the Egan, ensured a three point victory for Tyrrellspass come the shrill of the final whistle.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser, Athlone manager, Liam McHale, noted his immediate post match disappointment noting that the loss was particularly difficult to ingest with fine playing margins between both teams.
“Upon reflection it is a game which we most definitely should have won. Similar to our previous championship outings, we created sufficient goalscoring opportunities, which if you fail to take, will often work in the opposition’s favour.
“After a positive opening quarter, the water break disrupted our playing momentum and were it not for the frees awarded to Tyrrellspass we may have enjoyed a stronger first half lead which was needed with such a strong breeze in our favour,” Liam asserted.
Stating that Athlone found it difficult to attain frees in the scoring zone, Liam noted that Athlone missed four to five point scoring opportunities in that opening half which could have proved the difference.
“Realistically, we should have had a stronger lead at the interval but we failed to capitalise on numerous scoring opportunities which ultimately proved costly as Tyrrellspass’ senior players used their experience to manage the game to their advantage in the latter stages,” Liam asserted.
In reflective mode, Liam stressed that the four championship games played during the COVID-19 effected senior club football campaign will enhance the playing experience of the team’s young cohort many of whom were tasting competitive fare at this level for the inaugural time.
“From a position of not advancing from the group phase of the senior championship in 2019, we have advanced to the semi-final stage of this year’s competition so, in essence, progress has been made, but ultimately, disappointment will reign as Sunday’s contest was one which realistically, we should have won when reflecting upon the chances missed. For now, it is a tough defeat to take,” Liam added.
With regard to the on field progress, Liam is enthused with regard to the future of this Athlone playing squad and will meet with the club Chairman, Fergal O’Toole, in the coming times to discuss his future.
“I was thoroughly delighted with the players application during the season. Although very much COVID-19 effected, the players gave of their best and I would be hopeful of further improvement to come in the future,” Liam reflected, as he lauded the wealth of contribution from his immediate backroom team, John Egan, Fergal Murray and Conor Small.