There was plenty of drama and a few surprises too as a full schedule of round three games were played in the Westmeath senior football championship last weekend. While Maryland made it three wins out of three in group B and Tyrrellspass and Garrycastle recorded important wins in division A, the big winners from the weekend were Bunbrosna and St Malachy’s.
Both sides were being tipped as likely relegation candidates and while there are still two rounds to go, Bun’s win over Killucan and St Malachy’s totally unexpected draw with St Loman’s could well be enough to keep them clear of the drop this year.
Both Killucan and Bunbrosna were seeking their first points when they met on Friday evening in Lakepoint Park. Killucan were the bookies’ favourites and looked primed for victory when they led 0-9 to 0-4 at half time. Spurred on by the fear of a further defeat, Bunbrosna upped their game throughout the second half and slowly reeled Killucan in. With Peter Tormey in great kicking form they pushed on to record a well deserved and hugely valuable 0-14 to 0-12 win. Based on this performance and result Killucan look likely to finish bottom of group A but they do have two games to turn things around. Bunbrosna have two tough games remaining, Garrycastle and Castledaly but this win could well be enough to keep them free from a relegation battle.
Tyrrellspass and Castledaly had the makings of a fascinating encounter and it didn’t disappoint. Derek Heavin’s side had the better of the exchanges in the opening half and led 0-10 to 1-3 at the interval. They were 0-14 to 1-4 to the good after 40 minutes. That’s when Tyrrellspass’ marquee players Denis Glennon and Martin Flanagan really stood up and were counted. Five unanswered points brought them right back into contention and further points from the same pair and Ger Egan saw them scrape over the line with their noses in front. Disappointment for Castledaly but they still have plenty to play for while Tyrrellspass firepower means they will be a threat to anyone.
In the final division A game last year’s intermediate champions Coralstown/Kinnegad were expected to run under-strength reigning champions Garrycastle close and so they did. Jack Cooney’s side trailed 0-8 to 0-4 at the break and despite shipping two second-half goals they never gave up and kicked the last four points of the game to leave just two between them at the finish. Both sides will take plenty of positives from their respective performances with new Garrycastle boss Paul Clancy happy that his new-look side continued their winning ways.
In division B St Malachy’s and The Downs entered last weekend’s games seeking their first points of the campaign. St Loman’s, who opened their campaign with an eye-catching win over neighbours Mullingar Shamrocks were expected to collect both points on offer without breaking a sweat. St Malachy’s, as they have often done in the past, showed that you write them off at your peril. They say a good start is half the battle and it was the men in red and black who got off to a flyer, leading 1-3 to no score after six minutes. John Heslin who finished with 0-9 to his name brought the Mullingar side back into contention and they took the lead for the first time with two minutes of normal time remaining. Ronan Whelan fired over a deserved equalizer as the game entered injury time. St Loman’s will have to show considerable improvement if they are to be genuine contenders while St Malachy’s will be hugely encouraged by this performance.
Mullingar Shamrocks added further misery to neighbours The Downs by handing them their third straight defeat and sending them ever closer to relegation trouble. The town side were in control throughout and were never fully tested as they ran out 0-15 to 0-9 winners. With a number of players including Kieran Gavin still to return, Shamrocks will take beating when at full strength. For The Downs it is very simple, avoiding relegation is their only focus now.
When Maryland and Athlone met in Moate last Saturday there was a place in the knockout stages at place. Finbar Egan’s side sat on four points while we were one behind on three. It was the underdogs, however, who deservedly came out on top as we never got going the way we had against The Downs and St Loman’s. We were totally flat and out of a total of 0-7, only 0-2 of which came from play it shows how toothless we were up front. Maryland’s defensive set-up was partly responsible for that but too many of us just didn’t perform to the required standard.
The sending off of Mickey Greene, who was wrongly red-carded on the advice of an umpire following theatrics from his immediate opponent, mightn’t have helped our cause but Maryland were deserving winners with Callum McCormack and Kieran Martin leading the way. They are sure of a place in the knockout stages and could well secure an automatic semi-final spot yet. Thankfully St Malachy’s kept the door open for us but we must beat St Malachy’s and Mullingar Shamrocks to secure a quarter-final spot.
The next round of games is pencilled in for the bank holiday weekend and things will become a lot clearer after that.