Garrycastle's Conor Cosgrove and Dean Moore (Mullingar Shamrocks) in action. Photo: Ann Hennessy.

Garrycastle face champions as Moate, Caulry and Tang seek intermediate final places

The finalists in this year's Westmeath intermediate and senior football championships will be known by Sunday night, provided drawn games don't intervene. Here we take a look at the four semi-finals which form two double headers this weekend.

Moate All Whites v Milltownpass
(Saturday, TEG Cusack Park, 3.30pm)

Having overcome Multyfarnham after a replay, Moate All Whites now face a semi-final against Milltownpass as they seek to reach the intermediate final for the first time.
With Milltownpass going straight into the semi-finals, it means Moate have two extra championship games under their belt and that could prove an advantage.  
Milltownpass were finalists last year when Shandonagh proved too strong in the decider. Last year, Moate felt they blew a chance of reaching the semi-finals when losing out to Milltown. They have already gone one better this year and they won't want to stop now.
The return of Billy Berry from the United States has been a major boost for Moate and he was impressive in the win over Multy. Moate will also be looking for solid displays in defence from the likes of the Gorman brothers (Paul and Andrew), Sean Bracken and Dylan Ennis. Ruairí Cunningham can be a big influence at midfield and in terms of scoring power, much will depend on Robert Forde and John Corbally, along with the aforementioned Berry.
Moate started their campaign impressively, defeating local rivals Caulry, but they suffered defeats to Maryland and to their semi-final opponents (2-9 to 1-9). However, a draw against Tang and an emphatic dismissal of Milltown was enough to see John Twaddle's charges advance to the knockout stages. 
Milltownpass will be looking for inspiration from Sam Duncan, a regular on the Westmeath team this year, while Noel O'Reilly also featured for the county team early in the season. Liam Brennan is a promising young forward who will take watching, and the likes of Brandon Kelly and Evan Gorman are also capable of doing damage up front. 

*Garrycastle v Mullingar Shamrocks
(Saturday, TEG Cusack Park, 5pm)

Garrycastle will be seeking to return to the Westmeath SFC final for the first time since 2014 when they take the field later today (Saturday) – but standing in their way are reigning county champions Mullingar Shamrocks.
There has been plenty of history between these two sides in recent years, and Mullingar Shamrocks manager Ned Moore said his side owe Garrycastle a beating in the aftermath of the quarter-final win over Coralstown/Kinnegad.
Garrycastle won the group game between the sides last year (after a tense finish in Rosemount), and the Athlone-based outfit also came out on top in this year’s meeting in the group stages. Last year’s defeat didn’t prevent Shamrocks from going on to win the Flanagan Cup and it would be unwise to read much into this year’s meeting either.
Garrycastle will be conscious of the ball-winning capacity in the Shamrocks team in the shape of players like Denis Corroon and Daragh Daly. In addition, former defensive lynchpin Kieran Gavin made a match-winning contribution in attack off the bench in the quarter-final.
There was a very keen rivalry between the sides in the early part of this decade. They met in three finals in row from 2010 to 2012, and two of those deciders went to replays. Garrycastle came out on top in the first two, though they needed a late James Dolan point to earn a replay in the 2011 final. The rest is history as they say, with Garrycastle following up their victory in the replay by going to win the Leinster title. 
When Shamrocks finally got the better of Garrycastle in the 2012 final (in another replay), they not only ended Garrycastle’s hopes of four-in-a-row, they also dethroned the Leinster champions. Two years later, Garrycastle surprised many observers by regaining the Flanagan Cup, again beating Shamrocks in the final.
St Loman's had been the dominant force in Westmeath football recent years, but it was their local rivals Shamrocks who ended their run of county title wins last year.
Garrycastle were already through to this year's knockout stages and virtually assured of a semi-final place before their last group game against St Loman's. As things transpired, the comprehensive manner of the defeat almost forced them into the quarter-finals. The two teams finished their group games on very similar scoring difference – Garrycastle with +21 and Shamrocks on +20 - which meant the 'Castle men went directly through to the semi-finals.
With Jack Donohue and Justin Barrett back in the fold this year, and young Jason Nugent making an impact up front, the Garrycastle panel looks stronger than last year. Yet this is the acid test for the team managed by Gary Dolan and John Keane. It's one they are capable of passing but it will probably take their best performance in a knockout game in a number of years. 

Tang v Caulry
(Sunday, TEG Cusack Park, 3.30pm)

Tang will be bidding for their first appearance in the Westmeath Intermediate FC final since 2002 when they face Caulry in Sunday’s semi-final.
These two neighbours met at the same stage in 2014 when Caulry came on top after a replay, before going on to defeat Rosemount in the final. They also met in this year’s group stages when Tang claimed a 2-19 to 2-12 victory. That win got Tang back on track after their opening round defeat to Maryland.
With four teams going through from Group 1, teams had considerable wriggle room to recover from defeats. On Sunday, however, it’s a case of win or bust with the losers having to wait until next year to launch another bid for championship glory.
Caulry, who began with a defeat to Moate All Whites, recovered from their shaky start by winning their remaining three games. In a very tight group, that was enough for John Benton's charges to qualify directly for the semi-finals
Tang had to take on Bunbrosna in one of the two quarter-finals, a hurdle that jumped in impressive fashion, albeit against limited opposition. Corner-forwards Shane Coughlan and Adam Neary led the way in the scoring stakes in that victory, and they also benefitted from John Tumelty's presence as a focal point at full-forward.
The scoring power in the Tang side means they will be fancied by many observers to finally end their wait for a county final appearance. But with Kevin Maguire, one of Westmeath’s leading defenders for a number of years, in their ranks, Caulry will be hoping to curtail the Tang attack. 
An intriguing battle awaits between these familiar foes.

St Loman’s Mullingar v The Downs
(Sunday, TEG Cusack Park, 5pm)

This clash could be billed as a battle between two of Westmeath’s best forwards – John Heslin of St Loman’s and Luke Loughlin of the Downs. 
When they met in the group stages, St Loman’s claimed victory by 4-21 to 4-14. Sunday’s game will hardly turn into such a high scoring feast. But if Heslin and Loughlin have their shooting boots on, there could be some fireworks.
Before this year's championship began, many observers would have viewed the two Mullingar clubs (Shamrocks and St Loman’s) along with Garrycastle as the leading contenders. The Downs, given their underage pedigree in recent years, would have been touted as potential dark horses. As things have transpired, those are the four teams remaining in the hunt for the Flanagan Cup.
The Downs are a rising force in Westmeath football, given the considerable success they have enjoyed at underage level. Still, Loman’s greater balance and recent pedigree at this level means Luke Dempsey's charges have to be fancied to advance.