Garrycastle complete three-in-a-row after game of two halves

Westmeath SFC Final (replay)

Garrycastle captain John Gaffey and his team-mates celebrate their third successive county title. Photo:

Garrycastle captain John Gaffey and his team-mates celebrate their third successive county title. Photo:

Garrycastle collected the Flanagan Cup for the sixth time in the club’s history after a commanding second-half performance in a rain-soaked Cusack Park last Sunday. In doing so they completed a historic three-in-a-row and dashed Shamrock’s hopes of collecting silverware for the second year running.

While the game was far from a classic neither side can be faulted, given the incessant rain which grew heavier as the game progressed. Rarely has Cusack Park been as cut up after a game and the slippery underfoot conditions certainly reduced the quality of football on show.

This was the proverbial game of two halves. The Mullingar men were well ahead in terms of hunger and energy in the opening half and their three-point half time cushion could easily have been greater. Having kicked nine points, many from distance following flowing movements in the opening half hour, Ray Smyth’s men failed to raise a flag in the second period and in short that proved to be their downfall.

Garrycastle for their part looked flat and devoid of ideas in the opening period yet proceeded to take a vice like grip on the game at the change of ends and could easily have won by more than their three point winning margin.

James Duignan’s first half goal, which came against the run of play, was crucial as it kept the door open for the reigning champs as they gathered themselves at halftime. One always felt that had they slipped to five or six down it is unlikely they would have managed to turn it around especially given the conditions. Yet with only one kick of the ball between the sides and their proven knack of winning, it was very much a case of game on.

Anthony Cunningham had plenty to ponder at the interval and a number of switches including the introduction of Gary Dolan and dropping James Dolan back to wing back soon began to pay dividends. A heavy challenge on Darragh Daly took the wing from his sails and the influential Mullingar midfielder was forced to retire from the action shortly afterwards. He was a massive loss to the eventual losers.

Dessie Dolan, who collected the man of the match award, kept the scoreboard ticking with a number of well struck frees. Faced with a two point deficit as the game ticked towards injury time Shamrocks pressed hard for a goal they never really looked like getting.

In the end it was Seanie O’Donoghue who sealed matters with a superb point for Anthony Cunningham’s men.

Losing two county finals on the trot is rough medicine for the Mullingar men but with a good age profile and no shortage of talent they are sure to be a major force on the club scene in Westmeath in the coming years and will surely get their reward in time.

Garrycastle can now look forward to home advantage against Longford champions Longford Slashers on November 13. Anthony Cunningham, who looks likely to be named as Galway senior hurling manager in the coming weeks, has made no secret of the fact that he expects his side to do all in their power to win a Leinster club title. Anything is possible but it is best not to look beyond the first hurdle at this stage.

Meanwhile Westmeath intermediate champions Coralstown/Kinnegad enjoyed a facile 0-18 to 0-5 win over St Brigid’s (Longford ) in the Leinster intermediate championship last weekend.


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