A defining afternoon awaits Westmeath in Cusack Park, Mullingar on Saturday afternoon as Brian Hanley’s team face Kildare in a promotion/ relegation play-off.
Ultimately the winners of the match will compete in the All Ireland Senior Championship next year so a Westmeath loss would see them relegated to Christy Ring Cup action. That is a scenario Westmeath, who have shown signs of improvement recently, are striving to avoid.
Kildare won that competition at Croke Park last weekend when stunning Kerry in a dramatic final and their manager Brian Lawlor feels that by claiming the Christy Ring crown the Lilywhites ought to have been given an automatic place in the 2015 Leinster Senior Hurling Championship. “I believe we should be going straight up for winning this,” said Lawlor. “The same way Kerry should be in Division 1B of the League next year.
“Kerry won their division, they should have been promoted. We won our championship, we should have been promoted. Neither happened. In what other sport or even in what other section of the GAA do you win a competition and not get promoted?”
Kildare struggled in Division 2A of the Allianz Hurling League, but Lawlor’s charges have improved significantly as the year has evolved. Now they are hoping to take Westmeath’s scalp. “Looking at our league and championship form, I would agree that the Christy Ring Cup final performance was way above that level,” Lawlor said. “But I knew this was in them. I’m just delighted it’s been steady progress through the championship and they’ve saved the best for the big day.
“The other side of it is it’s difficult for Kerry to win three times in a row. That was absolute motivation to us. We said, ‘We’re not going to lose a third game to these guys’.”
Westmeath won’t be short on incentive either at Pairc Tailteann because Hanley’s young team will be fully aware of how important it is to maintain their status at the highest level so it promises to be a lively and interesting clash.