The Leaving Cert class of 2009 might have found out their fate on Wednesday of this week but the club footballers of Westmeath are anxiously awaiting, results of this weekends games to know exactly where they stand.
With four rounds out of five already decided in the group stages, things are certainly hotting up in this year’s championship. The final round of group games will take place this weekend (August 15 and 16 ), and with no team on maximum points, we are in for some mouth-watering clashes.
This year, if two teams finish on level points, table position will be decided not by scoring average but by who won the respective group match. If, as happened with Garrycastle and Mullingar Shamrocks, the group match was a draw, then score difference will be used to determine table position.
In group one Garrycastle top the table with seven points thanks to their latest win over Killucan and a superior scoring average than Shamrocks. Anthony Cunningham’s men are now sure of a quarter-final spot and are looking good to go straight to the semi-final. They take on reigning champions Castledaly in the final game. Castledaly were being written off prematurely by many observers last year before creating history. As often happens in such circumstances, they have struggled to match the same intensity and hunger so far this season. The pressure is on them now to collect two points if they are to be sure of remaining in the hunt to retain their title. Dessie Dolan and David O’Shaughnessy are injury concerns at this stage. Both are likely to feature but should one or other be ruled out, their absence would be significant. At this stage Garrycastle would appear to hold all the aces and I expect them to continue their winning ways.
Mullingar Shamrocks are also sitting pretty on seven points in group one and look set to add to that in their final outing against newcomers Maryland. Maryland, on four points, will be delighted to have retained senior status, having won the intermediate title last year. For Shamrocks however success will only be judged on whether or not the Flanagan Cup spends the winter in Springfield. They look set to make a bold bid.
The two teams with most on their minds this week in division one are the bottom pairing of Killucan and Bunbrosna. Killucan have two points to their credit thanks to their defeat of Castledaly while Bunbrosna have yet to register a point. This game is black and white - the winner is safe for another year, while the loser is in a relegation playoff. The bookies have Killucan as warm favourites to win but Bunbrosna, with a number of players recently returned to action could easily spring a surprise.
Coralstown/Kinnegad top group two after their surprising five point win over Tyrrellspass in their last outing. Presuming that they will account for St Malachy’s at the weekend, they too look set to take the direct route to the semi-final. Elsewhere in group two Tyrrellspass, already on six points are sure of a quarter-final spot, and should account for The Downs in their final outing.
Athlone and St Loman’s both sit on four points and go head to head in the final game to see who grabs an all-important quarter-final spot. We began the year brightly with two wins out of two but have been less than impressive in our most recent outings. The Saints had six points to spare over St Malachy’s last weekend. With little separating the two teams on form and so much at stake this should be one of the ties of the round. I’ll wait until next week to give my verdict on the outcome of this one.
Where does Leinster football stand now?
In the lead up to the big clash on August bank holiday Monday between Dublin and Kerry I have to admit I couldn’t decide who I wanted to shout for. Kerry have won enough in the past and should get lost and concentrate on hurling for a few years and Dublin are.. well Dublin.
In the end I convinced myself that for the sake of Leinster football it would be good to see Dublin teach Kerry a lesson. Having captured the Leinster title for the fifth year in a row perhaps this was going to be their time to put Leinster football back on the map.
Thirty seconds into the game and the Gooch had the first big nail in Dublin’s coffin and the rest as they say is history.
I could never shed a tear for Dublin but I do worry about the state of Leinster football given the beating Pat Gilroy’s men received. With the exception of Kildare who showed considerable improvement this year, and are the only credible threat to Dublin in the next few years, all other Leinster counties seem to be going backwards.
Dublin, who were humiliated by Kerry, look set to dominate Leinster for the foreseeable future. Westmeath, Laois, Offaly, Meath, Wexford, Louth, Longford, and Carlow are all less competitive now than they were five years ago.
Serious consideration needs to be given to address the problems in each of these counties in order to make the provincial championship competitive once again. A tough Leinster championship campaign would stand to the eventual winners and better equip them to make a bold bid for Sam.