It’s semi-final time in the Westmeath senior football championship with two very interesting games down for decision this Sunday in Cusack Park. Holders Garrycastle take on surprise packet Maryland at 2.30pm followed by the all-Mullingar clash of St Loman’s and Shamrocks at 4pm.
Maryland booked their place in the semi-final thanks to a well deserved 2-9 to 2-8 win over a fancied Castledaly outfit last weekend. Finbar Egan’s side certainly relish the underdogs tag and sure why wouldn’t they after their exploits in the TV programme of the same name.
The Drumraney men have been consistently impressive in their championship outings to date but will be facing a serious step-up in class this weekend. The fact that they have plenty of competitive action in recent weeks is a huge advantage to them while Garrycastle are coming in cold after a five week lay-off.
Maryland showed great self-belief to claw their way back into contention having found themselves 2-0 to 0-1 down after 10 minutes last weekend. They had drawn level by half time and when David Martin converted his second penalty of the day midway through the second half they held a lead they would not surrender.
It is no secret that Kieran Martin at centre back and Callum McCormack up front are the shining lights on a team that epitomises hard work throughout. Both players have had a huge say in their side making it to the last four. David Martin’s haul of 2-2, albeit from goals coming from the penalty spot, shows he has plenty to contribute up front as well.
New Garrycastle manager Paul Clancy will have Dessie Dolan back at his disposal following his stint in Boston. With plenty of players blooded over the summer months the Garrycastle management must now figure out their best starting 15 as they continue the defence of their title.
Garrycastle will expect to beat Maryland and provided they don’t take them for granted they should progress to yet another county decider. The ‘Castle’s experience and greater scoring threat up front gives them an undoubted edge. Maryland will be without the services of defender James Reynolds who underwent surgery following a collision in the Castledaly game. Clancy’s side are sure to have their homework done on Callum McCormack too and if his influence is negated it is hard to see Maryland causing an upset here.
The second semi is sure to be a huge crowd puller with the two Mullingar sides doing battle for the right to contest the decider. St Loman’s ran out surprisingly easy winners when the sides met in the opening round last April. Since then both sides have enjoyed their ups and down as they struggled to find their best form and were hampered by the absence of key players.
The bookies make it an even money game which is not surprising. There are big question marks over both sides. St Loman’s have been boosted with the return of Conor Lynam and he certainly adds an extra dimension up front. John Heslin as always will have a big bearing on the outcome of this game. If he is let exert his influence around the edge of the square or at midfield where he is also likely to be utilised then Shamrocks could be in trouble.
Shamrocks have had their own problems over the summer and they have been a pale shadow of the side that came so close to winning the Flanagan cup 12 months ago. The absence of Lorcan Smith (suspended ) and Darragh Daly (injured ) deprives them of two key players. With that said there have been signs in recent weeks that the Springfield men are beginning to get their act together. They impressed in their final group outing albeit against a disappointing Athlone outfit. Although they looked in trouble for long periods against Tyrrellspass, and were undoubtedly aided by the dismissal of Ger Egan, they did finish strongly to claim the spoils.
Shamrocks don’t have a standout scoring forward of the Conor Lynam variety but are likely to enjoy the lion’s share of possession around the middle. They will have to be more economical up front than they have been if they are to see off the challenge of their neighbours.
It is easy to make arguments for either side to come out on top but I feel that Shamrocks greater experience at this stage in recent years could help steer them over the line but they will need Donie Donoghue on board if they are to progress. One thing for sure - it will be a lot closer that when the sides met last April.
The intermediate semi-finals are also down for decision this weekend also and Caulry look well equipped to see off the challenge of Tubberclair in what should be a closely fought contest. Kevin McGuire and Ben Moran are likely to be given the job of keeping tabs on Fergal Wilson and Alan Coffey and if they can negate their influence then Brendan Clarke’s side can progress.
In the second semi-final CFCW should have too much firepower for Rosemount though the return of David McCormack for Rosemount should mean the outcome will be closer than when the sides met in the group stages.