Local derby scoreboard parity as senior football championship gets underway

.Athlone’s James Finlass evades the challenge of Garrycastle’s Mark McCallon, during the team’s drawn Westmeath senior football championship fixture in Tubberclair on Sunday evening.  Photograph by AC Sports Images.

.Athlone’s James Finlass evades the challenge of Garrycastle’s Mark McCallon, during the team’s drawn Westmeath senior football championship fixture in Tubberclair on Sunday evening. Photograph by AC Sports Images.

Scoreboard parity prevailed as the shrill of the final whistle brought to a conclusion a low key local derby senior football championship fixture between rivals Athlone and Garrycastle in Tubberclair on Sunday evening last.

Trailing by a three point margin at half time, Athlone almost secured a morale boosting one point victory, but a late Alex Gardiner free ensured the 2019 county champions emerged from this closely fought contest with a draw.

Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser following the opening round fixture, Athlone manager, Liam McHale, was pleased with the manner in which his charges played and is looking forward to the games to come as Athlone aim to emulate last year’s championship exploits and advance to the knockout phase of the competition.

“Since our return to group training in May, we have worked on the defending and tackling aspect of our game and that was to the fore on Sunday evening. Teams will now know that they are in for a physical encounter when they play Athlone in this year’s championship.

“We fielded a young team on Sunday, shorn of the services of key personnel, Ray Connellan and Shane Reid, and to hold a seasoned team like Garrycastle to nine points was admirable,” McHale stated.

Athlone played the closing quarter of the game with 14 players following the dismissal of Conor Rushe and McHale believes that the sending off reduced the opportunity for Athlone to win the game.

“Being reduced to 14 players nullified our offensive threat but I am very happy with the attitude displayed by the players. We play the top teams within the county over the next ten weeks and hopefully, if we emerge from our group, we will be a much stronger team when the knockout phase of the championship starts.

“It is a step up for our players but I am confident in our playing abilities going forward,” McHale asserted.

Meanwhile, in Group 2 of the senior football championship, the three South Westmeath clubs, Rosemount, Moate All Whites and Caulry, all tasted defeat in their respective outings.

Mullingar Shamrocks were to the scoring fore over Rosemount, Moate All Whites succumbed to a three point loss to Killucan, while Caulry were defeated by Shandonagh by five points.

The next round of senior football championship fixtures are due to take place the weekend commencing Friday, August 20.

 

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