Having impressively accounted for near neighbours Offaly in the opening round of the Cadbury’s Leinster u21 football championship, Westmeath are in action again this Saturday in the quarter final. Kilkenny provide the opposition in a game fixed for Nolan Park at 2.30pm. Even allowing for the fact that Westmeath will be forced to line out without a host of regulars due to college commitments, it’s inconceivable to think they could slip up against lowly Kilkenny.
One has to question the stupidity of those in charge of fixtures (presumably the Leinster Council and Croke Park ) for allowing this clash of fixtures to take place.
Sigerson weekend is one of the highlights of the year for anyone lucky enough to be part of a decent college team. Most colleges have u21’s in their ranks. Many talented players, including John Connellan (NUIG ) and Tommy Warburton (UCD ) are on scholarships which mean they are obliged to choose college over county. Andrew Whitney, Denis Corroon, and Simon Quinn will also be absent due to college commitments. Why then did the Leinster Council make this fixture? At the risk of counting chickens it is a good job that it’s Kilkenny and not one of the stronger footballing counties that Westmeath are up against this weekend.
While Westmeath should have enough strength in depth to progress to the semi-final, the fact that the team will not have had the benefit of playing together in the quarter final won’t help their cause when they take the field against either Dublin or Meath.
On a positive note the absence of so many regulars will give Tomas and his selectors an opportunity to run their eye over other panel members. There are high hopes resting on this year’s u21 panel and the more there are fighting for positions the better.
Incidentally, the one chance I had of making the Sigerson weekend was back in 2001 when I was part of the UCD team. The team included the likes of Meath’s Nigel Crawford, Beano McDoanld (Laois ), Collie Moran (Dublin ), Stephen Lucey (Limerick ), Noel McGuire (Sligo ), Philip Wallace, David Murphy, Darragh Breen, Doc O’Connor, and Redmond Barry (all Wexford ), the three O’hAnaighs (Wicklow ), Conor Evans (Offaly ), Noel Meehan (Galway ), as well as Roscommon’s John Hanley amongst others.
Just my luck that, while the competition was completed, the weekend itself in Sligo had to be cancelled, due to the foot and mouth outbreak. We made the final, Ciaran McManus in midfield and JP Casey and myself in the two corners, but lost out to an exceptional Jordanstown outfit, captained by Donegal’s Jimmy McGuiness. Hopefully all the lads involved this year will have a successful weekend and bring at least one coveted Sigerson medal back to Westmeath. More importantly, hopefully they will be looking forward to a Leinster u21 semi-final come Saturday evening.
Westmeath Hurlers welcome Down
Westmeath welcome Down to Cusack Park this Sunday (throw-in 2.30pm ) in round two of the league. While beaten in their last outing against Offaly, a repeat performance should be enough to secure an all-important win for the home side.
Club League gets underway
Last weekend marked the beginning of competitive action on the club scene in Westmeath with the football leagues getting underway. On Saturday evening Garrycastle, now under the guidance of Anthony Cunningham (former St Brigid’s manager and double all-Ireland hurling winner with Galway ) made the short trip to Castledaly. Garrycastle raced into a seven or eight point lead before Castledaly got off the mark. However Castledaly struck two all important goals, one on 18 minutes and the other on 22 minutes to bring them back into contention.
The sides were level with five minutes remaining before late points from Gordon Duffy, MJ McLoughlin, and Michael Duffy sealed victory for the county champions. Final score: Castledaly 2-11, Garrycastle 0-14. Both sides were without a number of regulars and while Garrycastle will be disappointed to lose, they can look to the return of David O’Shaughnessy, introduced after 37 minutes, as a major plus.
Athlone, without a host of regulars made the journey to The Downs on Sunday last but came out the wrong end on a 2-9 to 1-10 defeat. Athlone will be pleased with the performance but will realize that it was The Downs’ greater efficiency in front of goal that made the difference.
Mullingar Shamrocks were pushed all the way by Ballynacargy but emerged on the right side of a 1-6 to 0-7 result while Tyrrellspass had three points to spare over St Loman’s.
Finally Corralstown/Kinnegad showed no mercy on a severely depleted Bunbrosna outfit, putting them to the sword on a score-line of 3-18 to 0-05.