A tide of maroon and white emotion continues to envelop the county as the Westmeath senior footballers, management and supporters savour and embrace the memories being created following Tailteann Cup success in Croke Park on Saturday last.
A final which certainly graced the inaugural hosting of this competition, it was fitting that Lake County playing stalwart, Kieran Martin, netted the decisive score as the game edged towards its conclusion, the Maryland forward’s goal dedicated to the memory of former club team mate, Eoin Farrell, who sadly passed away prior to the contest.
A closely contested final over the duration, Westmeath showed character in abundance, particularly in the second half when the concession of a Cavan goal on 52 minutes placed the Ulster county in a prime position as the game entered its final quarter.
Having enjoyed a two point interval lead, this was the first occasion in which Cavan attained scoreboard superiority in the second half of this absorbing contest and with the humidity sapping energy in abundance, the Westmeath players had to call upon their vast resilience reserves to re-establish a presence in the game, their ability to do so being testament to their positive attitude towards the Tailteann Cup since an opening round defeat of Laois in late May.
The dismissal of Cavan’s Thomas Galligan on 58 minutes certainly assisted the Westmeath cause and enabled the Lake County to force a tiring Cavan team into errors from which the victors were able to take advantage, Martin’s energy laden run, speed of thought and poise in front of goal, notable attributes of a goal befitting of such a sporting arena.
The goal, when it arrived, placed Westmeath into a three point lead, a goal saving block from captain, Kevin Maguire, being as important from a defensive perspective as Martin’s wonder finish moments previously.
Such were the fitness levels of this Westmeath team that the players were still breaking offensively with speed as they stymied late Cavan pressure, Ronan Wallace’s handpass point in injury time, defensive colleague Jack Smith assisting, a true reflection of this team’s commitment to the county cause and their willingness to utilise each ounce of energy in their collective desire to win the Tailteann Cup in its maiden season.
Upon the shrill of the final whistle, scenes reminiscent of the county’s Leinster senior football championship success in 2004 unfolded, as Kevin Maguire, who played a true captain’s role from his full back berth, ascended the Hogan Park steps, his victory speech the first of its Westmeath kind since that of former Garrycastle footballer, David O’Shaughnessy, 18 years ago.
The days since have been laced with celebrations as players, management and supporters united in numerous villages and towns throughout the county, the Tailteaan Cup proving to be a very popular guest of honour in such communities.
These players are now heroes to a generation, the hope is that this victory will inspire those who lace up their gaelic football boots both now and in the times to come. Westmeath is a proud footballing county, such celebratory scenes are all too rare, but now there is future hope and belief that dreams do come true - here’s to many more maroon and white magical moments.
WESTMEATH TEAM AND SCORERS -
Jason Daly, Jack Smith, Kevin Maguire, Jamie Gonoud, James Dolan, Ronan Wallace (0-1 ), David Lynch, Jonathan Lynam, Ray Connellan, Sam McCartan (0-3 ), Ronan O’Toole (0-5 ), Sam Duncan, Luke Loughlin (0-2 ), John Heslin (0-3 ), Lorcan Dolan (1-0 ). SUBSTITUTES - Kieran Martin (1-0 ) for LOrcan Dolan, Ger Egan for Lynam; Alex Gardiner for Loughlin.