Alan Coffey in action for Tubberclair, who take on Caulry in the Westmeath IFC semi-finals on Saturday.
Jasca Sports Westmeath IFC Semi-Finals Preview
TWO of the region's most respected clubs will meet face-to-face in the semi-finals of this year's Westmeath IFC this weekend, as Caulry and Tubberclair lock horns at Cusack Park on Saturday (4.30pm).
The attractive prize for the eventual victors will be a decisive final showdown against either Rosemount or Castletown-Finea Coole/Whitehall, who play afterwards in Westmeath headquarters at 6pm.
On paper at least, which of cousre counts for very little come matchday, Caulry will be rated as favourites against Tubberclair.
Not only did Caulry go the entire five-match group stage unbeaten, but they also defeated Tubberclair by four points (back in mid-June) along the way to topping Division A.
Topping the qualifying group meants Caulry went forth to the semi-finals, while Tubberclair (who finished third in the six-team group) needed a narrow quarter-final victory over Ballymore to reach this stage.
Tubberclair though, will present stiff opposition to Caulry, who were also losing semi-finalists in 2010, having only been relegated from senior level last year.
In former Garrycastle manager Martin McCabe, Tubberclair have an intelligent and measured leader, though the Cavan native is wary of Caulry's qualities.
"The way I see it, Caulry won all their group games. They only dropped a point against Milltownpass in the last game, when they were already comfortably assured of top spot. Caulry are a very fast and effective team. They have a good method to their play, and Brendan Clarke, like all good managers, sets the team out to suit the players at his disposal. Caulry are very fit, have bundles of energy, and they're going to be favourites with most people," said McCabe, whose Garrycastle team actually beat a Brendan Clarke-managed Castledaly in the 2002 Westmeath SFC final.
Clarke said this week he doesn't expect key forward Peter Smyth to start the game on Saturday, as he continues to endure hamstring problems.
"It's five weeks since our last championship outing but I don't think that impacts us. It gave the lads a chance to have a short break before returning to hard training. I expect a backlash from Tubberclair for the victory we had against them earlier in the competition, and you must remember that Tubberclair's team is steeped in senior football experience, something we don't boast. I think this time it will be a 50/50 call and will go down to the wire. Reaching a final is probably the next step in Caulry's progression, having been knocking on the door for several years, but it's going to be difficult to earn a place in the final," said Clarke.
Roses' still in full bloom
Rosemount, meanwhile, have surprised many observers with their performances to date in this year's championship, and given the very youthful make-up of their side, have probably surpassed everyone's pre-competition expectations by reaching the semi-finals.
Without key forward, David 'Dude' McCormack, for the recent quarter-final defeat of Tang, Rosemount showed they are no pushover even without one of their more noted performers.
Manager Eamonn Gallagher will include the man known as 'the Dude' for the semi-final encounter, despite McCormack still possibly requiring surgery to an ankle problem, though whether he's fit enough to actually contribute on the day remains to be seen.
The Mullen pairing, David and Declan, both key elements of the Rosemount team, are presently nursing knocks but are expected to take their places in the starting line-up, while Paddy Boland could also make the matchday panel after recently returning from the United States.
Rosemount finished third in their qualifying group, after winning the first three matches and then losing to Ballymore (by a point) and this weekend's opponents, Castletown-Finea C/W/.
The manner of the latter defeat will concern some Rosemount supporters ahead of the weekend, as they took a 12-point defeat that day.
Gallagher said: "It's a fair ask to make up a 12-point deficit, but we're hopeful the lads will rise to the challenge. Rosemount haven't had many appearances at this stage in recent years, but I'm not overly surprised by it. We've a good bunch of lads and they give everything for the cause. There's also a very good feeling within the club at the moment. The underage system is going well and obviously this young side is progressing, so the important thing for Rosemount in the coming years will be keeping all their players together, but that's easier said than done nowadays."
Rosemount claimed the last of nine Westmeath SFC titles in 1989, and also won the junior title in 2007, but have never won the intermediate crown. C-F/C/W/ were almost flawless when winning Division B of the qualifying process, with four wins and a draw against St Mary's, Rochfortbridge.
Many feel this year will be Castletown F/C/W's year after going so close over the past numbers of years, been losing semi-finalists three years running (2008 to 2010), before suffering an agonising one-point defeat to Coralstown-Kinnegad in the 2011 decider.