Ben Keena of Fr Dalton’s and Delvin's Adam McCormack in action when the sides met in the group stages of this year's Westmeath Senior 'B' hurling championship. Photo:l John McCauley.

Fr Dalton's and Delvin bid for place in hurling's top tier

Slevin's Coaches Westmeath Senior 'B' HC final preview

While Delvin go into their second consecutive Westmeath SHC ‘B’ final as favourites, they only have to cast their minds back to last November to know that this tag counts for nothing.

The Valley got the better of Cullion in the round robin stage last year and were widely expected to repeat the result in the final. Instead, they shipped five first half goals as Cullion – with Jack Gillen (3-11) on fire – steamrolled their way to a 24-point victory.

The ignominy of that capitulation will surely be the focus of preparations by Delvin manager Jody Murray, as he seeks to motivate his troops against Fr Dalton’s in this Saturday’s Mickey Power Cup decider at TEG Cusack Park (4pm).

As was the case in 2021, the Valley eased their way through the league phase and qualified directly for the final so comfortably that they could afford to lose to Dalton’s in their round five fixture. The Ballymore men prevailed 1-13 to 0-14 on that occasion, but will surely meet a totally different animal in this Saturday’s final.

Fr Dalton’s advanced to the final by defeating Brownstown by a similar scoreline (1-13 to 0-13) in their recent semi-final.

Ned O’Connor’s charges won’t be in Cusack Park next Saturday just to make up the numbers. They’re driven by possibly an even more compelling narrative than Delvin’s. While Castletown Geoghegan might be, technically, a ‘south’ Westmeath club but Fr Dalton’s, and indeed their catchment area, is much closer to Athlone. They will be eager to become the southernmost club to dine at a top table of Westmeath hurling dominated by clubs from the north.

Boasting a youthful side, Fr Dalton’s will be counting on big performances from their marquee forward and top scorer Owen McCabe (who was very impressive against Brownstown some weeks ago), and his fellow attackers Colm O’Roarke and Sam Maxwell.

Now that the Tailteann Cup is over, Dalton’s also have hugely experienced Westmeath footballer Kieran Martin among their ranks, and he performed with great effect against the Archerstown men in the recent semi-final, scoring three points.

Martin is not the only experienced head in the Ballymore side’s selection, with the likes of John Gilligan and Kenneth Kincaid marshalling a Dalton’s rearguard that is also well served by the likes of Jack Kearney and Padraig Nestor.

They will be up against a strong Delvin side which boasts the twin attacking threat of experienced Westmeath hurlers Darragh Clinton and Josh Coll, with the latter in particular coming on in leaps and bounds in the last year.

Like Dalton’s, Delvin have their fair share of experience among the ranks. Teak-tough full back Patrick Clune started the Valley’s memorable intermediate hurling championship win in 2003. He is, like Francis McGrath and Paddy Farrington, also well versed in the arts of top-tier club hurling in Westmeath.

Killian Murphy, always a threat for Delvin going forward, adds another layer of inter-county experience to the side, an integral part of a Delvin spine which may, on the day, be just too difficult for Fr Dalton’s to master.