Athlone face tough task as Garrycastle and Castledaly clash in play-off
Kieran Galvin previews the Westmeath SFC quarter-final between Athlone and Tyrrellspass and the play-off clash between Castledaly and Garrycastle.
Westmeath SFC Quarter-final: Athlone v Tyrrellspass
(Sunday, Moate, 6.30pm)
Earlier in the week it seemed that Athlone would be facing local rivals Garrycastle in the quarter-finals, but after a deeply confusing situation was eventually clarified, it's Tyrrellspass that now stand in the way of the Shannonsiders.
Athlone sealed their place in the knockout stages with a dramatic 3-9 to 3-8 win over Bunbrosna last weekend, the Athlone men fighting back from an eight-point deficit.
For their part, Tyrrellspass were eventually deemed to have taken second place in Section B on account of having better scoring difference than Garrycastle and Castledaly, both of whom also finished on six points.
Athlone's confidence will have been boosted by the win over Bunbrosna and the fact that they scored three goals - Ray Connellan, John Stapleton and Mickey Greene (who bizarrely headed the ball to the net) the players on target.
Still, major improvement will be needed from Athlone against Tyrrellspass, as Bun' were very much in control of last Sunday's game until they were hit by a three goal salvo.
The Tyrrellspass midfield pairing of Dean McNicholas and Gavin Hoey are exciting players going forward, but whether they can win enough primary possession remains to be seen. If Paul Bannon and John Stapleton can exert a big influence here, Athlone might be able to limit the supply of ball into a dangerous Tyrrellspass attack.
The Tyrrellspass defence hasn’t looked entirely convincing during the championship, something Athlone will hope to exploit. Another source of worry for Tyrrellspass is the injury recently picked up by regular goalkeeper Darren Quinn, with Ger O'Toole filling the role of netminder in their emphatic win over Killucan last weekend.
An interesting aspect of this clash is that Tyrrellspass manager Tom Coffey will be in opposition to his former charges, having been at the Athlone helm last season. Perhaps the Athlone players, now under the stewardship of Noel O'Brien, will want to prove a point to their former boss.
Yet, it's difficult to see Athlone curbing the influence of the key figures in the Tyrrellspass line-up such as the versatile Ger Egan, the Glennon brothers (Denis and David) and Martin Flanagan, who is still a highly valuable operator at this level.
Westmeath SFC Section B Play-off: Garrycastle v Castledaly
(Sunday, Cusack Park, 6.30pm)
There have been some mighty battles between these two sides over the years. Garrycastle defeated Castledaly in the 2002 and 2004 county finals and have had the edge overall during the period since. However, Castledaly have also enjoyed some famous victories over their neighbours, such as the drama-packed 2006 semi-final and the 2008 county final.
Garrycastle have been a something of a Jekyll and Hyde outfit in this year's championship. After a shaky opening 20 minutes or so, they looked impressive in their opening game against Sunday's opponents Castledaly, but were then comprehensively beaten by St Loman's.
Despite missing some key players, they responded to that setback by edging out Tyrrellspass in their next outing. Then then cruised to victory over struggling Killucan (who did manage to escape the drop with a relegation play-off win over C-F/C/W). It seemed that normal business had been restored but a surprise defeat to Coralstown/Kinnegad (who had nothing tangible to play for) means Garrycastle have to overcome this play-off to keep their ambitions alive.
Having lost that aforementioned game to Garrycastle, Castledaly defeated Killucan and Coralstown/Kinnegad before a loss to Tyrrellspass left them on the brink of elimination.
But with Paddy Holloway outstanding at midfield, Eddie Bouabbse charges kept their hopes alive with a fine victory over St Loman's, Brendan Kelly crowning an excellent display with a terrific winning point. The Mullingar men were already guaranteed an automatic semi-final place and did not have the services of John Heslin or Paul Sharry. Nonetheless, Castledaly showed admirable battling qualities to eke out a narrow victory.
So which of these teams looks best equipped to book a quarter-final clash against The Downs?
The fact that Tommy Warburton has returned to the United States and that Gordon Duffy misses out through suspension are major blows to Castledaly.
And now that Garrycastle know another defeat will end their hopes of regaining the title, one suspects they will rise to the challenge, but this looks like being an interesting battle.
*See this week's Westmeath Independent for all these weekend's fixtures and reports from last weekend's games.