Newly crowned Westmeath champions Mullingar Shamrocks suffered a humiliating defeat in Cusack Park against a highly impressive Ballymun machine on Sunday last. It was always going to be a difficult hurdle for Ray Smyth’s men to clear but the manner of their defeat has taken many by surprise.
I felt that Shamrocks were open to improvement now that they had finally got their hands on the Flanagan Cup and could run the Dublin representatives close. The nature of this defeat however would seem to indicate that they were content with their lot for this year and were not up for the battle against Ballymun.
While on one level that is somewhat understandable it is also disappointing and will also take some of the gloss off their recent success. Ballymun were in much the same boat in that they are new champions also.
Garrycastle have been great ambassadors for Westmeath in Leinster in recent years and have shown what can be achieved with the right attitude. While Ballymun would have beaten any Westmeath opposition last Sunday it is hard to imagine Garrycastle being turned over so easily.
The visitors hit the ground running and went 1-5 to no score ahead by the end of the opening quarter and were 1-7 to 0-3 ahead at the break.
Strong second-half performances have been Shamrocks’ trademarks on their march to their first championship in 12 years but it was the Metropolitans who put this game beyond doubt in the opening minutes of the second half when they stretched their lead to 2-8 to 0-3.
Shamrocks only managed two points from play over the course of the hour and those scores came from two substitutes Anthony Clinton and Darragh Daly. Kickhams clocked 2-6 from open play. That statistic alone shows how much of a gulf in class was on view in Cusack Park last Sunday.
There is no doubt that Ballymun will have a big say in where the Leinster title ends up this year and could well make it all the way to March 17. Shamrocks will no doubt downplay the importance of this result and will focus on their county title success. If they do retain their title next year however they will surely adopt a different attitude to the provincial campaign.