A 15-point defeat in the end seems like rough justice for Anthony Cunningham’s men. The brave effort of the drawn encounter offered huge cause for optimism as the green and red army descended on Cavan’s Kingspan Breffni Park last Saturday evening. However the dream of becoming the first Westmeath side ever to be crowned All-Ireland club champions was well and truly shattered by the time Francis Hanratty bagged his second goal with only 20 minutes played. Crossmaglen don’t do second chances, a fact alluded to by joint manager Tony McEntee in the game’s aftermath.
Crossmaglen were ten points to the good at the break and at that stage there was no way back for the Westmeath champions. A well-taken goal, two minutes after the restart by Gary Dolan, following a sublime pass from brother Dessie, offered a small glimmer of hope. However Crossmaglen stepped it up another gear and dominated much of the remainder of the game. To their credit Garrycastle battled to the end even when the result was gone beyond doubt.
Yet Garrycastle players can hold their heads up high despite being outplayed and out-muscled by perhaps the best club team of all time. While there was always the fear that Garrycastle had missed their chance in the drawn game I for one did not foresee such a heavy defeat being on the cards. On the day however Crossmaglen were simply in unbeatable form while Garrycastle failed to reach the heights of the drawn game.
While defeat at the final hurdle is a bitter pill to swallow, all concerned with Garrycastle can be proud of the efforts which gave a timely boost to football in the county, brought national attention to their club and delivered the first ever Leinster club title to the Lake County.
In many ways The Castle have been punching above their weight for quite some time which makes their achievements this year all the more noteworthy. They have proven what can be achieved when a group of players, under astute management, buy into a goal and do all in their power to achieve it.
There are many clubs up and down Westmeath who could take a leaf out of Garrycastle’s book if they want to taste a fraction of the success achieved by the reigning county champions. Yes they have a few exceptional players but their main strength is their team spirit and battling qualities. That is what got them over the line in the county final and against the two St Brigid’s and was almost enough to see fulfil their dream on St Patrick’s Day.
It was a long road to get as far as they did and it will be an even longer road back. Anthony Cunningham, who guided them to three county titles on the trot has parted company to take charge of the Galway senior hurlers. Finding a replacement for him is top of the club agenda at present.
With this year’s county championship kicking off in a fortnight’s time Garrycastle don’t have much in the way of a break. They are still the team to beat in Westmeath and with the experience gained on this remarkable journey it would be foolish to bet against them making it four-in-a-row.