This weekend sees the quarter-finals of the Westmeath senior football championship down for decision. Cusack Park will host a double header on Sunday evening with the prize on offer a place in the semi final where Garrycastle and St Loman’s lie in wait.
Graham Geraghty’s Castledaly take on Mullingar Shamrocks at 5pm and this will be followed by the meeting of Tyrrellspass and The Downs at 6.30pm. The bookies have installed Shamrocks and Tyrrellspass as favourites to progress but I wouldn’t like to have money riding on either game.
It is easy to see why Shamrocks are favourites. They have already been crowned league champions and their only championship loss was to in-form Garrycastle. They have been talked up as serious challengers to Garrycastle’s throne this year. Their early season form would certainly have indicated this but the manner in which Garrycastle (minus Dessie Dolan amongst others ) put them to the sword has taken much of the wind out of their bubble.
While Ray Smith’s side ran out comfortable winners in the end against Athlone in round four, I was actually expecting them to be better. They wrapped up the group stages with a comfortable win over under-strength Bunbrosna.
Castledaly on the other hand were slow out of the blocks losing their opening two games to Tyrrellspass and St Loman’s but have gone on to win their last three games. The fact that they are on a winning run makes this clash all the more intriguing. Despite the fact that they are without the likes of Derek Heavin, JP Casey, and Tommy Warburton they have still have the experience of the likes of Niall and Gordon Duffy, Niall O’Neill, and MJ McLoughlin to complement their more youthful recruits.
Castledaly have been one of the most consistent teams in the past decade in terms of reaching semi-finals and finals. I expect them to give a good account of themselves on Sunday but it’s doubtful they’ll make the last four on this occasion. If the Mullingar men can get enough ball into in-form Lorcan Smith then they should win with a few points to spare.
The second quarter-final is harder to call and I certainly wouldn’t rule out a draw here. Neither Tyrrellspass nor The Downs have set the championship alight thus far. Yet now is the time to shine. As always the performances of Denis Glennon and Martin Flanagan will have a big bearing on the outcome of this game. If one or other of them cut loose they are capable of inflicting serious damage on any back-line.
The Downs are lacking a proven finisher of the Tommy Cleary mould but with the likes of the two Conroys, Brendan Murtagh, Greg Crowley, and John Smith they are not lacking in experience.
At this stage I don’t expect either of these two sides to be contesting the county final this year. If I had to get off the fence and call this one I would give a tentative nod to The Downs.
The quarter-finals of the intermediate are down for decision on Saturday in Moate. At 5pm the meeting of Tang and Caulry is sure to draw a large crowd. Tang are the more proven outfit at this level but Caulry will be hoping that their young side can come good this year.
In the second quarter-final St Mary’s Rochfortbridge might just edge their meeting with Shandonagh.