The Shay Murtagh Westmeath senior football championship is in full swing with all but two clubs looking forward to their second championship outing this weekend. Athlone and Garrycastle both sat out the opening weekend of action last weekend but face Bunbrosna and The Downs respectively this weekend. They will then face each other in a standalone fixture on Sunday May 15.
Reigning champions Garrycastle, who are seeking their third title on the trot, set the standard in what promises to be a keenly contested championship. While most clubs will harbour hopes of making it to county final day, realistically there are only a handful of teams with a genuine chance of turning those hopes into a reality.
At this early stage I have a feeling that Mullingar Shamrocks are the most likely team to stop Garrycastle from completing a historic three in a row. Shamrocks have produced a number of outstanding u21 teams in recent years and have strength in depth throughout their panel. If I was having a wager my money would be on the Mullingar club to lift the Flanagan Cup this year but there are bound to be a lot of twists and turns before the year is out.
The opening round of games threw up few real surprises. Tyrrellspass saw off the challenge of Castledaly who played much of the game with 14 men. St Loman’s, as expected, easily accounted for St Malachy’s while Killucan got the better of Tubberclare. Mullingar Shamrocks had 10 points to spare over The Downs. Maryland produced a minor shock by edging out a fancied Bunbrosna side.
This weekend’s games begin with a double header in Ballymore on Saturday. In the opening game which throws in at 5.30pm, Mullingar Shamrocks should have too much firepower for Maryland. This is followed by the meeting of Castledaly and St Loman’s which should be a right battle. Castledaly under Graham Geraghty battled well against Tyrrellspass but may have to settle for second best against The Saints.
On Sunday Killucan and St Malachy’s meet in The Downs at 3.30pm and Paul Greville and co should make it two wins out of two. At 5.30pm in Cusack Park Tyrrellspass will be expected to have too much in hand for Tubberclare, who are without the services of many of the side which helped them claim the intermediate title in 2009.
At 7pm, also in Cusack Park, the reigning champions Garrycastle are expected to get off to a winning start against The Downs but it won’t be as clear-cut as many might expect.
Athlone begin their campaign against Bunbrosna in Hogan Park Moate on Sunday at 3.30pm. Bunbrosna will be under pressure to secure a win, having squandered a six-point lead against Maryland last weekend. They have enjoyed the upper hand over Athlone in recent years, including when the sides met recently in the league. Athlone will be determined to get off to a winning start and while the likes of Aidan Finnan, Padraig Walsh, and Peter Tormey will take plenty of watching, Athlone will be hoping to edge it.