With all the preliminaries out of the way we have reached the semi-final stage of the senior and intermediate championships in Westmeath. The first senior semi-final, featuring the two heavyweights of recent years, Garrycastle and Tyrrellspass, takes place in Cusack Park this Sunday at 3pm. This intriguing contest will be followed by the replayed quarter-final between Mullingar Shamrocks and St Loman’s at 4.30pm.
Garrycastle took the direct route to the semi-final, having topped their group. Group form included wins over Kilucan, Bunbrosna, Maryland, Castledaly and a draw with Mullingar Shamrocks.
The wealth of experience which the backbone of this Garrycastle team has built up over the past decade has been complemented this year by the introduction of new blood in the form of James Dolan, Mark McCallan, and Shane Mulvihill.
Dolan has been playing with great effect in the half- forward line so far but it wouldn’t surprise me if this versatile player is deployed nearer his own goal on Sunday. Denis and David Glennon will have to be watched closely if the green and reds are to make it to the final. Denis almost single handedly beat Maryland in a 15 minute spell in the second half in their quarter final. Dolan possesses a valuable blend of speed and good defensive qualities and could be the man to keep tabs on one or other of the Glennons.
Neither side has set the championship alight so far. Indeed over all it has been a fairly mundane championship. There haven’t been any epic clashes to recall thus far. That could all change when these two lock horns on Sunday.
While Tyrrellspass had the benefit of an extra game against Maryland, Garrycastle have been keeping sharp with valuable challenges against Salthill and St Aidan’s.
Tyrrellspass were slow to start against Maryland and found themselves three points adrift at half-time. A repeat opening half performance against the Castle could prove very costly indeed. With that said, the manner in which The ‘Pass upped their performance in that second half shows that when push comes to shove they know how to deliver.
In my opinion there is very little separating any of the four teams left in this year’s senior championship. Whichever of them gets the bit between their teeth like Castledaly did last year will win it.
In what could be the game of the championship I’m going to side with Anthony Cunnningham’s men making it through to the final.
The second game in Cusack Park will be as eagerly awaited as the semi-final. A semi-final appearance against Coralstown/Kinnegad awaits the winner of the all Mullingar clash.
Mullingar Shamrocks dominated large periods of the first game but once St Loman’s got the goal to bring them level they grew in belief and took control of the game. Can Loman’s pick up where they left off? If so they are in with a great shout. Will Donie O’Donoghoe feature? If so his presence will be a big boost to Shamrocks. With so many question marks over this derby match it is a difficult one to call. However if Shamrocks get a little more economical at turning possession into scores, then I think it’s theirs to lose.
The two intermediate semi-finals are down for decision this weekend also. On Saturday evening at 5pm we are in for a cracking derby clash between Tubberclare and Tang in Pairc Ciarain. Tubberclare will be slight favourites going into the game having impressed on route to topping their group. However with so much at stake neighbours Tang will not be there to make up the numbers.
Tubberclare have been hit with a number of injuries this year and there are concerns over sharp shooter Ian Coffey ahead of Saturday’s game. His absence would be a big loss to Tubberclare.
Tang will be again looking to Paul Conway to do the business up front and though the experienced full forward also has a niggling injury, he will take minding.
Tubberclare are probably the more balanced team and if they can limit the ball going into Paul Conway then I think they will prevail.
The second semi-final sees the meeting of Ballynacargy and Castletown/Finea/Coole/Whitehall on Saturday at 7pm in Lakepoint Park. This is a repeat of last year’s semi-final when Bal emerged victorious. CFCW will be all out for revenge this time around but Bal’s knack of scoring goals might prove the difference.
All in all we are in for some mouth-watering clashes which should give our new county manager plenty to think about.