They say two out of three ain’t bad. When it came to winning their respective provincial championship games last weekend that’s how it panned out for the three Westmeath clubs in action. Garrycastle and Tubberclair recorded hard-fought and impressive wins in the senior and intermediate grades respectively while Caulry went down fighting, away to the Wexford champions.
Caulry can now enjoy a break after a busy season that saw them crowned junior champions. Their next job is to plan ahead as to how best they can build on this year’s success and at least retain intermediate status in the year ahead.
For Garrycastle and Tubberclair the show goes on. Tubberclair are back in action this weekend against St Pats from Palmerstown while Anthony Cunningham’s men have an extra week to prepare for their crunch semi-final meeting with Ballyboden St Endas of Dublin.
Clonguish 0-15 (aet )
It took a full 80-plus minutes for Westmeath champions Garrycastle to finally shake off the challenge of a stubborn Clonguish side in this entertaining and highly competitive Leinster quarter-final. Indeed it was the Athlone side who managed to take the game to extra time with a late, late point from the unlikely fist of Enda Mulvihill. The tenacious corner back is unlikely to score a more valuable point again.
His side started brightly on a day borrowed from the summers we used to have in years gone by. The favourable weather and impressive surrounds of Pearse Park gave both sides a fair chance to show their worth.
David O’Shaughnessy and Paddy Mulvihill made a timely return to competitive action after lengthy absences through injury. With Aidan Browne and Shane Mulvihill ruled out, Shocco and Paddy couldn’t have choreographed their return any better as they fitted back seamlessly into the Garrycastle fold.
Garrycastle had 1-3 on the board before the opposition opened their account. The goal was of the fortuitous kind and came from a speculative Dessie Dolan cross which deceived the Clonguish goalie, but they all count. The visitors led 1-5 to 0-4 at the break.
The second half was all about the Clonguish revival as they clawed their way back into the game. When Paddy Dowd nudged his side in front for the first time in the final minute of normal time it looked as if the Garrycastle goose was cooked. However showing admirable fighting spirit they dug deep to carve out an opportunity right at the death to bring the game to extra time and Enda Mulvihill duly obliged.
Garrycastle drawing on all of their fitness and large pool of talent edged three points ahead in extra time, only for the Longford men to reduce it to the minimum with time running out. Dessie Dolan sealed matters with an outrageous point from an almost impossible angle to send his side into the semi-final.
The Westmeath side have every reason to look forward to that semi-final with confidence, even if the Dublin representatives will be warm favourites to reach the decider. Home advantage is a big plus in this competition and Cusack Park Mullingar is the venue on Sunday week. Confidence will be high given the manner of the win on Sunday. At this stage it looks likely that Anthony Cunningham will have a full hand to choose from.
Their opponents Ballyboden, who also won the Dublin hurling championship this year, have question marks over a number of players ahead of their clash with Garrycastle. Key man Conal Keaney was visibly limping after their win over Wicklow’s Rathnew last weekend. Full forward Kenny Naughton dislocated his shoulder last weekend while Dublin hurling captain and dual star Stephen Hiney is just returning from six weeks on the sidelines due to a fractured knee. Added to this is the certainty that influential mid-fielder, and a former pupil of mine, Declan O’Mahony is ruled out having received a straight red card against Rathnew.
With their hurlers in action against Ballyhale this weekend there is the possibility that this injury list could grow. With that said like all Dublin champions they are bound to be formidable opponents and Garrycastle will have to be at their best to have any chance.
Tubberclair withstood a late Dunlavin comeback to secure a valuable quarter-final meeting with St Pats (Dublin ). Tom Lennon’s men made full use of home advantage and dominated proceedings in the opening half. A seven point half-time cushion put them in a good position.
Dunlavin’s cause wasn’t helped by the fact that they were reduced to 14 players midway through the second half. In typical Wexford style they refused to surrender and two goals for the travelling team left only two points between the sides with two minutes remaining. Jeffrey Farrell had the final say with the final point of the game for Tubberclair.
1-13 is a good score at any time of year. Fergal Wilson led by example up front, accounting for 1-6 of his side’s tally. Jeffrey Farrell, Conor Elliot and Michael Hopkins also impressed up front.
Ian Coffey who missed last week’s game through injury is unlikely to be available for Sunday’s quarter-final. He is an undoubted loss. However with home advantage in their favour again and confidence riding high at present, it’s going take a fair team to lower Tubberclair’s colours on their own patch.
The long journey to Wexford last Sunday proved to be a disappointing one for the men from Caulry who lost out by three points despite a late comeback. Indeed if the men from Mount Temple had brought their shooting boots, the result might have been different. Football is all about what’s on the scoreboard at the end and unfortunately for the Westmeath junior champions they failed to convert chances into scores.
While they will be disappointed not to have gone at least a step further in Leinster, overall 2009 has been a good year for them and they have plenty to look forward to in 2010.