A-Z of the year that was 2011

A - Anthony Cunningham has had the sort of 2011 that any manager could only dream of. After steering his native Galway to u21 All-Ireland glory in September, the two time All-Ireland winner was announced as the new Galway senior hurling bainisteoir. He also found time to guide Garrycastle to a third county title on the trot en route to seeing his side become the first Westmeath club ever to win the AIB Leinster club championship. Not a bad year’s work.

B - Brogans are well used to receiving awards and 2011 saw Alan follow in younger brother Bernard’s footsteps by collecting the footballer of the year award. What are the odds on Paul keeping it in the family next year?

C - Conor Cosgrove will be the toast of Garrycastle for many a year to come. He held his nerve to cooly convert a last minute free in the provincial decider which saw them create history. C is also for Clonkill who won this year’s Westmeath hurling title.

D - Dublin surprisingly had few begrudgers when they won Sam in September. Can’t see them being as popular if they retain it.

E - E is for exiles as the London footballers recorded their first ever championship victory at the expense of Fermanagh. If current emigration trends continue it won’t be their last.

F - Fermanagh had their problems in 2011 with many players jumping ship but the arrival of Peter “The Great” offers them hope for the year ahead.

G - Goalkeeping took on a whole new dimension in 2011 as free-taking was added to the job description. Stephen Cluxton and Mayo’s Robbie Hennelly were two of the leading exponents. Cluxton’s last minute All-Ireland clincher was the defining moment of the championship.

H - Historic is the only word that could be used to describe Garrycastle’s win over Dublin’s St Brigid’s on December 18. It will be some showdown when they meet neighbours St Brigid’s on February 18.

I - International rules football looks to have run its race after this year’s shambolic series. See under Z for the highlight of this year’s series!

J - Jim McGuiness led his Donegal side to their first Ulster title since 1992, with a 1-11 to 0-08 win over Derry but his negative tactics won few admirers from outside the county.

K - Kevin Cassidy’s monster extra time point to clinch the All-Ireland quarter-final against Kildare has been over-shadowed by his dismissal from the panel for alleged breach of contract. Rough justice.

L - L is for Lilywhites and also for luck, two things which haven’t gone hand in hand in the past two seasons. What will 2012 have in store for Kieran McGeeney’s men?

M - Mary Quinn (memorial cup ) is a welcome visitor to the Lake County this winter following the Westmeath ladies heroic All-Ireland win in October.

N - New Westmeath hurling manager Brian Hanley has already made an impression with a number of dual players opting for the small ball for the coming year. Our minor hurlers won many admirers with their exploits this year, beating Offaly and losing narrowly to Kilkenny and Dublin.

O - Off-field violence became an issue again in 2011. A nasty riot at the Tyrone league final between Dromore and Carrickmore resulted in bans totalling nine years being handed out.

P - Poggy Lynn’s tragic and untimely passing has cast a shadow of gloom over the GAA community in Westmeath as the year draws to a close. His inspiration will live on however.

Q - Qualifier system continues to come in for criticism as calls for a new championship format grew in 2011.

R - Relegation was not something we in Athlone had been hoping to have to worry about in 2011. Thankfully we survived. Tubberclair and Moate were not so lucky.

S - Sponsors are becoming harder to hold on to; Westmeath are just one of many counties on the hunt for a new sponsor.

T - Tipp minor footballers, the story of the year. They defied all odds to win the All-Ireland title.

U - Ulster Bank can sponsor the All-Ireland football championship but they can’t pass on ECB interest rate cuts too quickly!

V - Volunteerism, the rock on which the GAA has been built, will become even more important as clubs struggle financially and numerically to succeed in these difficult times.

W - Wexford women completed the senior and intermediate camogie double. No mean feat.

X - Xfactor is what King Henry has as he collected his record tenth all-star this year. Surely the greatest of all time.

Y - Yellow must be referee Liam Devenny’s favourite colour as he dished out a generous 14 yellow cards during the Connacht club decider. St Brigid’s won much to Corofin’s annoyance.

Z - Zach Touhy of Laois and Carlton fame got more than he bargained for as he prepared to be interviewed live on Australian TV following Ireland’s facile win over their Aussie counterparts when an exuberant Kieran Donaghy whipped down the Portlaoise man’s shorts. I’m sure he’ll get over the embarrassment sometime in 2012!


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