Garrycastle v Kilmacud Crokes (Sunday, 2.30pm, Parnell Park, TG4 4pm )
Garrycastle are just 60 minutes away from again securing a place in the provincial decider. Last year they made it to the final but a below par performance meant they were no match for Portlaoise. On that day I’m sure Anthony Cunningham and his men made up their minds to do all in their power to go one step better this year.
So far they have done all that has been asked of them, retaining their county title, and digging out wins over Longford Slashers and Mattock Rangers. The considerable obstacle of Kilmacud Crokes must however now be scaled this weekend if the men from Garrycastle are to keep alive their dream of becoming the first ever Westmeath club to lift the Leinster club title.
I believe it is now or never for this present group of players in their quest to write their names into the history books. Although the likes of Shane Mulvihill, James Dolan, and Mark McCallan provide a youthful edge to the side there is a fair share of the team with a lot of mileage on the clock. There is a limit to how many times a team can go to the well, so to speak, and should they come up short this year I think it will be almost impossible for them to complete the task next year.
Inspirational and ever reliable captain Doran Harte is ruled out through injury having dislocated his shoulder in the dying minutes against Mattock Rangers. He is a massive loss to the Westmeath champions. Yet you must play the hand you are dealt and green and red supporters will be hoping Seanie Donoghoe will be part of that hand. Seanie missed the quarter-final due to an ankle injury and while he faces a race against time I expect him to play an important part on Sunday.
Dublin champions are always a tough nut to crack and with Crokes having won the All-Ireland title in 2009 they will be formidable opponents. They do look likely to be without the services of the injured trio of Darren McGee, Paul Griffin, and Mark Davoren.
Yet the bookies have the home side trading at 1/4 for Sunday’s game, 8/15 to win the provincial competition outright, and 10/3 second favourites to repeat their feat of 2009. Garrycastle will need to be firing on all cylinders if they are to upset these odds.
Having beaten Ballyboden at the same stage last year and having already drawn with Kilmacud in a challenge a number of weeks ago, Garrycastle will travel with confidence on Sunday. Paddy Mulvihill, Dessie and Paul Dillon, and Rory McGowan will have to be economical up front.
Shocco will have to make his presence felt in the important midfield sector where Justin McAteer and Aidan Browne are also likely to see action.
Centre back is a pivotal position on any team and while Karl Henson has made the number six his own in recent years I won’t be surprised to see Seanie Donoghoe utilised there at some stage on Sunday. The backs in general will have to tighten up and not concede goals as they did against the men from Louth. Whoever is given the job of tracking Brian Kavanagh (Longford ) will have a very important role over the hour.
Garrycastle will need everything to go right for them if they are to emerge victorious on Sunday. Yet they will know that chances like this won’t come around every year. They are sure to give it one hell of a shot and while I think it might be a bridge too far for them, especially without Harte, I could be eating my words here next week. I wish them well.