The quest for Flanagan Cup success commences this weekend as the opening fixtures in this year’s Westmeath senior football championship throw in.
Achieving a senior football championship medal is the ultimate accolade for club players within the county and this year’s competition is greatly anticipated with twelve teams vying for supremacy in November.
Reverting to two groups, each comprising six teams (with each club guaranteed five fixtures ), the local derby Group 1 game between Athlone and Garrycastle is the standout tie of the first round this weekend.
To be played in Tubberclair on Sunday at 6.30pm, this is the third consecutive meeting of both teams in senior football championship. Garrycastle won the previous two games and will be seeking to complete a hat-trick of victories as they strive to regain the prized silverware last won in 2019.
Under the guidance of Gary Dolan and John Keane, Garrycastle will seek to immediately banish the championship memory of a surprise quarter final exit to The Downs in what was an abridged Westmeath senior football championship in 2020.
Rivals Athlone will be hoping to build upon a progressive 2020 senior football championship which culminated in a semi-final loss to Tyrrellspass. Having started their campaign last year with a loss to Garrycastle, Athlone fortuitously drew with Caulry, before surprising Rosemount in a pulsating quarter final fixture.
With former Mayo all-star footballer Liam McHale at the helm, ably assisted by former Westmeath and Athlone senior footballers, Fergal Murray and John Egan, Athlone will be hoping for a positive opening to their campaign following promotion to the top tier of senior championship football.
With four teams to progress from Senior Group 1 and two teams from Senior Group 2, attaining momentum in the opening round of fixtures is crucial for all clubs.
Three South Westmeath clubs will compete for a brace of crucial championship points in Senior Group 2.
Upon their return to senior championship status, Moate All Whites play Killucan in TEG Cusack Park on Saturday evening at 5pm, while Caulry, under the management of All Ireland club winning goalkeeper, Shane Curran commence their round robin journey with a contest against Shandonagh (also at the Mullingar venue ), on Sunday at 3.30pm.
Rosemount will aim to advance past the quarter final stage of the senior football championship having exited this stage of the competition in 2019 and 2020. An opening round fixture against Mullingar Shamrocks promises to be a particularly close encounter, this game throwing in in Hogan Park, Moate, on Sunday evening at 6.30pm.
Attendances at all senior football championship games this weekend is limited. A crowd of 500 is permitted to attend games taking place in TEG Cusack Park Mullingar while capacity will be fixed at 200 for fixtures throwing in at alternative venues.