Westmeath suffer rout as Tomas bows out

11 July 2009; Westmeath manager Tomas O Flaharta during the game. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier, Round 2, Westmeath v Meath, Cusack Park, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

11 July 2009; Westmeath manager Tomas O Flaharta during the game. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier, Round 2, Westmeath v Meath, Cusack Park, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Westmeath’s All-Ireland campaign came to a premature end on Saturday evening at the hands of Meath in a wet and windswept Cusack Park, on a scoreline of 1-15 to 1-5.

Westmeath battled bravely in the first half against a strong breeze and kept Meath scoreless for the first 15 minutes. However the floodgates opened with five minutes to go in the first half when a Nigel Crawford delivery was fisted to the net by Joe Sheridan, whose return to form is a big plus for Meath. Westmeath went in at half time five points down and needed a good start to the second half. However it was Meath who began the second half where they left off and scored four points on the trot to leave nine points between the sides. Westmeath introduced Martin Flanagan and he made an immediate impact by scoring 1-1 to give Westmeath a glimmer of light. Meath regained momentum with Joe Sheridan and Cian Ward both scoring two points each to propel them into the third round of the qualifiers against the winners of Roscommon and Wexford.

Tomas Ó Flatharta’s four-year reign as Westmeath manager came to an end following the defeat to Meath. The Kerryman’s decision came as no surprise after a disappointing season in which their only win in league and championship came at the hands of Wicklow. Tomas gave great dedication and nobody can even imagine the time and effort he has given to Westmeath football in the last six years, since the Dublin- based banker was brought to Westmeath in 2004 by Paidi O’Shea. In those six years you could count on one hand the number of training sessions Tomas would have missed. For him the highlights would be the Leinster final success of 2004 in which he played an integral part; bringing Westmeath to All-Ireland quarter final in 2006 would also rank highly, while last year’s National football League division two title must also have given him great satisfaction.

There is however no doubt that his successor has a major rebuilding job on his hands. Tomas has gone through a high turnover of players throughout the last number of years and has failed to mature and develop the young talent that was in the county. The majority of the Westmeath team are now heading towards the 30 mark. This is not relatively old one can argue, but a number of these players have a lot of mileage on the clock with some constantly playing since Westmeath won the All-Ireland in 1999. A new manager will be good for these lads too as he will bring fresh new ideas and everyone will be out to impress. Who that man shall be will be a major talking point in Westmeath GAA circles in the coming weeks.

Roscommon and Wexford end’s all square

Roscommon put in a battling performance last weekend to salvage a draw against a Wexford team that are extremely hard to beat at home. The teams could not be separated in normal time and after an additional twenty minutes the sides remained deadlocked on a scoreline of 1-8 to 0-11. Manager Fergal O’Donnell rang the changes for this game and made 7 changes from the Connaught semi final against Mayo. Roscommon got off to the worst start when Wexford’s Ciaran Lyng goaled after 30 seconds of play. However Roscommon remained composed and went into the break a point down. The lead changed hands a number of times in the second half before a fisted point from Roscommon substitute Brian Higgins brought the game to extra time. Both teams scored two points each throughout the extra time period as the game ebbed and flowed in conditions that were far from ideal for championship football. Wexford now have to travel to Hyde Park this Saturday at 3pm and Roscommon will feel they have an excellent chance of progressing to the third round of the qualifiers. Cathal Cregg and Senan Kilbride put in good performances last Saturday and will need to do so again if the rossies are to set up a clash with Meath

Club Action

After a seven week siesta, Westmeath club footballers are back in action this weekend when the third round of the Lagan Cement senior football championship gets underway. This year’s championship promises to be the most open one in years with a number of teams with their eye on bringing the Flanagan cup home. Here is a preview of the weekend’s games.

St Malachy’s and The Downs

This is a big game for both sides as neither side has managed to get points on the board to date. St Malachy’s lost out in their opening game to Athlone but put in an improved performance against Tyrellspass, in the end losing by five points. The Downs lost out to Kinnegad in round one and were comprehensively beaten by St Lomans. The Downs have changed management in the interim and this may bring out an improved showing. St Malachy’s have over the last number of years been heavily reliant on Alan Mangan to score, but he has been struggling with a knee injury and without him to the fore The Downs should be able to register their first points in this year’s championship

Athlone and Tyrellspass

Athlone has started this year’s campaign brightly with victories over St Malachy’s and Coralstown Kinnegad. This weekend will really test Brendan Clarke’s side as they take on championship favourites Tyrellspass. Tyrellspass also come into this game unbeaten with victories over St Malachy’s and St Loman’s. However they have failed to sparkle in both these games and Athlone will feel they have a chance of defying the odds.

Coralstown Kinnegad and St Lomans

Both teams come into this game with one win and one loss. St Loman’s lost out to Tyrellspass in round one before easily beating The Downs. Kinnegad also beat The Downs but lost out to Athlone and Colm Coyle will be eager to get the Meath border side back to winning ways. Kinnegad’s defence will have to be tight as Conor Lynam, Paul Sharry, and Conrad Reilly are all capable of scoring for Loman’s if given space and quality ball in.

Mullingar Shamrocks and Castledaly

This promises to be a very close encounter with both sides hoping to be involved at the business end of the championship later in the year. Mullingar drew with Garrycastle in round one before easily accounting for Killucan.Reigning champions Castledaly hadn’t an ideal start to the campaign with a first round loss to Killucan and were fortunate enough to come away with full points against Bunbrosna. They will be hoping that a victory here might kickstart their season. However Shamrocks’ youth and hunger will mean they will not find it easy.

Garycastle and Bunbrosna

Garrycastle come into this game with a win against Maryland and a draw against Mullingar Shamrocks, while Bunbrosna are pointless after two defeats at the hands of Maryland and Castledaly. Garrycastle manager Anthony Cunningham will be happy to welcome Doran Harte, David O’Shaughnessy and Dessie Dolan back to training following Westmeath’s defeat to Meath. Bunbrosna are struggling this year to date and the unavailability of key players such as Finian Newman and Padraig Walsh who are abroad travelling is not helping their cause. Garrycastle should win this with something to spare.

Killucan and Maryland

A competitive game in store with both teams feeling they can get a result from this game. Both teams are currently on one win and whichever team wins has a live chance of qualifying for the knockout stages of the championship. Killucan will be hoping to put their heavy defeat to Mullingar Shamrocks in round two behind them and return to the form that saw them beat Castledaly in the first round. Maryland will be happy with how they have adapted to life in senior football with a victory over Bunbrosna and a very good first half performance against Garrycastle.

Overall a very competitive weekend of championship action lies in store. Who knows, maybe the new Westmeath manager may be in the stands unearthing some new talent...


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