History beckons for Covies' in Croker

GAA: All Ireland Intermediate Club Football Championship

One more lift: Phil Keegan lifts Oisin McLaughlin high after the full time whistle in the All Ireland semi-final. Westport are looking for one more lift on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

One more lift: Phil Keegan lifts Oisin McLaughlin high after the full time whistle in the All Ireland semi-final. Westport are looking for one more lift on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

It all began for Westport last May in Sean Duffy Park in Ardnaree, where they just about had enough to see off the challenge of the north Mayo men who themselves were only coming down from their own All Ireland adventure and on Sunday, it'll come to a conclusion in Croke Park, what a ten months it has been for Westport. They've moved on from their narrow 0-15 to 2-7 win over Ardnaree, to within 60 minutes of All Ireland final glory if they can get over Meath and Leinster champions, St Colmcille's.

Eight of the side who started and one man who came on in their opening round win in north Mayo way back then started three weeks ago in Ennis and those building blocks have carried them all the way through to this stage of the competition and dug them out of holes when it looked like there was no escape at times.

The main man for the Royal county representatives is Meath captain Graham Reilly, he kicked four points for them in their 3-11 to 2-13 win over Pomeroy Plunketts from Tyrone in their All Ireland semi-final win in Armagh, which was played at the same time that Westport were engaged in their own titanic struggle with Kenmare in Cusack Park in Ennis.

But Reilly isn't the only danger man the Westport defence which is led by Kevin Keane will have to look out for on Sunday, with James Conlon kicking 1-3 in that win and Conor O'Byrne chipping in with 1-1 to help see off the Ulster sides challenge. Keane alongside his corner backs Niall McManamon and Keelan Dever will have to be on top of their game on Sunday in wide open expanses of Croke Park.

Westport of course possess plenty of danger men themselves, with Paul Lambert and Colm Moran two of their young guns who showed against Kenmare in the semi-final, that they'll relish trying to run around their markers in Croke Park, while Fionn McDonagh and Oisin McLaughlin are two more attackers with plenty to offer if they get the right ball.

Of course having last years footballer of they year in your ranks is something that Westport are delighted to have in their ranks, but you can be sure that the Bettystown side will have put a lot of thought into best how to curb his influence on the game. If they concentrate on shutting down Lee, it should free up space for Shane Scott and Phil Keegan to get on the ball and influence the game in a positive way. Scott showed he has the nerves that you need for a big day, when he buried a later penalty in their semi-fianl win to bring Westport back into the game.

The Westport half-back line of Brian O'Malley, James Walsh, and captain Brian McDermott are an efficient unit and they have to hit the ground running from the off if Damien Loftus' side are to come out on top on Sunday afternooon.  While they'll need a bit of luck along the way, when we spoke to Westport full back, Kevin Keane a few week ago he was in no doubt that his side deserve to be there and win an All Ireland title. "This team is a special team, it's a special group of lads, we came together this year and everybody put their shoulder to the wheel. We have achieved what no Westport team has achieved so far, winning the county title and then going on to win the Connacht title. Getting to Croke Park with this bunch.... they deserve it, we deserve it."



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